Push for carbon farming
Australia’s largest emission offset company has revealed plans to swoop on WA’s looming multi-billion carbon farming opportunity.
Climate Friendly is one of the contenders jostling for position to take a stake in WA’s outback carbon farming market after the McGowan government showed signs of clearing existing roadblocks to enable local industry to be established.
WA’s rangelands are considered by many in the industry to be an untapped vein for carbon farming potentially worth billions of dollars to the State’s economy because of the vast areas of land across which carbon could be sequestered to a commercial level in vegetation and soil.
CF had already secured more than $500 million worth of contracts from the Federal Government’s Emission reduction fund pie for clients around the country and had established a presence in WA since 2015.
Last week, Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan indicated she was seeking legal pathways, which have secured hopes within the industry of finding a way to set up a workable carbon farming business model for the State, under current pastoral lease legislation.
Since 2013, about 100 projects around Australia have been contracted to store about 40 million tonnes of carbon emissions, over the next 10 years.
The price of carbon has risen in recent times to sit above the benchmark of $13.08 per tonne after 16 businesses across the country were forced to purchase carbon credits under the Federal Government’s Safeguard Mechanism for the first time last year.
Carbon Friendly development manager John Harris said WA was the last frontier in unexplored carbon farming opportunities.
“There has been a lot of focus in other States but because of the inability to get consent from the previous WA government, there hasn’t been as much exploration of the opportunities,” he said.
“There is $200 million left in the ERF, and when the farming consent process is finalised, there will be an investment to explore carbon farming business opportunities across the majority of WA lands.”
“The previous government was hard to engage on this issue but the McGowan Labor Government seems open to the conversation and would like to see it succeed.
“So now we have to work through the process of fitting it in with existing legislation to make that happen.”
Mr Harris said the carbon farming initiative is one of the greatest land-use change stories in Australia’s history.
“You can compare it to initiatives like Landcare and the like, but this is 35 million hectares of land across the nation, which is a size greater Italy,” he said.
“That’s land that is under improved environmental management and providing a new income stream for the landholders.
Mr Harris said the success of the carbon farming industry had shown to have been highly beneficial to the pastoral sector. “Queensland had a slow start to the scheme while they were finalising their rules about how their government could provide consent on crown land and pastoral leases,” he said.
“However in the last few years, the State has attracted around $700 million in contracts. “For landholders, they have had to ensure livestock stocking levels are not having a significant impact on the vegetation.
“They must also stop clearing land in specific areas and build water points infrastructure.”
Mr Harris said the scheme is about making the land more productive. “The carbon income has allowed landholders to reinvest the money from carbon farming back into their property, making it more productive,” he said.
Climate Friendly carbon farming development manager Josh Harris.