Failure of The Carbon Farming Initiative

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                              Voluntary carbon farming for NO reward and No Carbon Credits 
                                                "Eucalyptus cladocalyx" at "Aristida Drift"


CARBON FARMING INITIATIVE will fail farmers and rural communities

So said the headline at "The Conversation".

The author Penny van Oosterzee, a practitioner in "carbon farming" and a researcher, paints a despondent picture about the CFI.

The losers of course, will be rural communities.

But is this any surprise? Of course not. Rural communities are the forgotten peoples. There is scarcely any environmental improvement program alive today.

The CFI once had hope, but today because of government legislated action (via the Carbon Farming Initiative Act), then as sure as night follows day, complexity has followed simplicity. 

One of the largest complexities is auditing. 

van Oosterzee says …

… under the Carbon Farming Initiative, there are far more costs that need to be taken into account. Its reforestation methodology then requires onerous audits not required of other sectors such as the energy sector.

Land sector auditors are compelled to re-measure trees and validate the government’s modelling at a cost to the landholder of around A$15,000-A$25,000 per audit. Compare this to non-land sector audits – such as checking the emissions of a smoke stack - where audit costs are comparatively small for a ball-park assessment. Under the Emissions Reduction Fund, land sector projects will require a minimum of three audits.


Carbon Price Failings

The next is the Carbon Price - and this is one of the biggest failings with the CFI. At the current global carbon price of about AU$8 per tonne CO2-e (July 2014), carbon farming is not economic. 

The Australian Farm Institute says so, as referenced in this ABC Rural report.

The Emissions Reduction Fund will fail, so why would the federal government keep flogging a dead horse?

It's head-shaking and logic-defying stuff.

van Oosterzee again …


For Australia to meet our 2020 Kyoto Protocol emissions target, we need to purchase or cut a total of 421 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Cutting 421 million tonnes at the lowest cost possible will only suit projects with a quick payback and rapid execution.

At an average abatement price of just over A$5 per tonne (which is what market analysts Reputex found would need to be to be within the Emissions Reduction Fund’s budget) carbon farming projects will simply not get a look in.


The Environment Minister has said that the Emission Reduction Fund will be far more effective at reducing Australia’s emissions than the current carbon price. But Reputex’s recent modelling forecasts that the Emissions Reduction Fund will be able to purchase between 30 and 120 million carbon credits, meaning a likely shortfall of more than 300 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia’s current carbon price has already reduced emissions by nearly 40 million tonnes. In a world moving towards carbon pricing and emissions trading schemes, we’re the only country dismantling a working carbon price to replace it with what is a feeble voluntary scheme, which will struggle to purchase even a quarter of Australia’s abatement task, and make carbon farming all but invisible.


Is There a Way Out Of The Mess?

Maybe the present hiatus about carbon pricing, or emissions reduction, or carbon farming, will have a silver lining. Maybe, in several years, the whole greenhouse gas emissions plan can be re-designed, but I doubt whether politicians will allow this.

If the already legislated Emissions Trading Scheme in the Clean Energy Act can be brought forward, and the existing Carbon Farming Initiative legislation is simplified and re-framed to make it work, then maybe Australia will have a chance to meet its global emissions reduction obligations.

An unlikely scenario!


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