Push for car­bon farm­ing

Countryman - - NEWS - Rueben Hale

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.

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