May 26, 2011 - 3:23pm
The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) is a crucial first step in the growth of a new industry based on climate change solutions in rural and regional Australia, says a new independent report released by The Climate Institute today.
“Until now, rural and regional Australians have been given little incentive to innovate and build comparative advantage in climate change solutions. The Carbon Farming Initiative can get the ball rolling,” said Corey Watts, The Climate Institute’s Regional Project Manager.
The report Evaluating the Carbon Farming Initiative: a Good but not Final Step was prepared by AECOM. It reviews various estimates of the potential for agricultural and forestry projects to offset carbon pollution, and suggests ways to promote rural solutions to climate change.
“Some people have been distracted by some very big numbers estimating the potential for the land sector to reduce pollution in the short term,” Mr Watts said.
“A cool-headed appraisal of what’s possible suggests initial investments in carbon farming by big polluters are likely to be modest and the risks low.”
AECOM concludes the most conservative estimates are the most realistic: the land sector could offset up to 3 per cent of Australia’s total emissions in ten years’ time, or around 10 per cent of the sector’s own emissions — a pollution reduction of up to 15 million tonnes in 2020.
Despite the modest start, Mr Watts said the Carbon Faming Initiative could lead to major innovation in land management and farming:
“The world is changing rapidly — those millions of tonnes represent innovation and new investment that will help landholders manage the risks and play a positive part in cutting pollution”
“Australian farmers’ skills and strong tradition of ingenuity will come to the fore when they finally have the legislative backing, the finance and the information to really tap into the growing carbon market.”
AECOM also recommends a number of ways to overcome participation barriers in the scheme, including investment in research and development, sound information for landholders and help for groups of landholders bringing smaller solutions to market. To give The Carbon Faming Initiative the best chance of success, The Climate Institute is calling for:
At least a $200 million, four-year investment in research, development and extension services to kick-start the carbon farming industry this should be a priority for revenue from a carbon price;
Proper recognition of the multiple benefits — social, environmental, economic and cultural — that well-designed carbon projects can deliver;
A domestic price tag and limit on carbon to drive demand for rural solutions from the big polluters.
“There is still work to be done to ensure the scheme a success, but that’s no reason to delay passage of the carbon farming bills now before Parliament,” Mr Watts said.
“We urge all parties to put politics aside and enact the scheme so that landholders can get on with the job.”