Jan 27, 2011 - 4:30pm
The Australian Government proposes to set up a new market in pollution offsets: the ‘Carbon Farming Initiative’ or CFI. The CFI would set up a new trading scheme that should enable farmers, foresters, Indigenous communities and conservation groups to carry out various practices and land-uses that cut pollution on the farm or sequester carbon in the landscape. These projects would be paid for by polluting companies elsewhere in Australia and around the world.
The Climate Institute is broadly supportive of the CFI, though the scheme will need to be strengthened and some areas clarified if it is to meet its full potential. In particular, it needs to leverage private investment in credible pollution offsets, without undermining progress towards a clean energy economy.
The CFI has the potential to be an important first step towards giving rural and regional communities a real stake in the global low-carbon economy. Without a price and a cap on pollution, however, demand and the returns to landholders—and hence the scheme’s likely contribution to Australia’s pollution reduction target—will remain low.
It’s crucial that policy mechanisms that secure credible abatement in the rural sector are set in motion; agriculture and deforestation account for around twenty-five per cent of Australia’s pollution load, including most of the country’s methane emissions.
The CFI’s design will need careful attention to ensure it offers the cropping, dairy and livestock sectors real opportunities to reduce their emissions whilst maintaining or improving productivity overall. Should it prove lacklustre, however, the Government will need to consider other strategies. Moreover, it’s very important that Australia finds ways of securing abatement beyond offsetting.
The Climate Institute’s submission responds to the specific queries raised in the Government’s CFI consultation paper, and suggests complementary strategies and policies.
You will find the consultation paper and draft legislation of the Australian Government’s proposed Carbon Farming Initiative here.