Thursday, August 21, 2008

Voluntary Carbon Trading in Australia

It does not look too positive for the early adopters who have been trying to do the right thing with carbon reduction.

It seems according to recent publicity that carbon credit and voluntary carbon trading schemes - NSW excepted - may not get a gig inside the new Carbon Reduction Scheme of the Federal government. It is still open to further discussion, and no doubt there will be some serious argy-bargy, but rumour hath it that they will be excluded.

That may be detrimental for agriculture and soil carbon storage, at least in the short term, outside the "to be developed" Australian Government scheme, as it would be very definitely excluded. It seems that voluntary schemes will not co-exist with the new government scheme.

Whether that will mean you cannot trade via other mechanisms eg overseas on instruments such as the Chicago Climate Exchange is unclear now. It also means that existing offset programs may not have the carbon reduction counted either. That last one would be a serious issue in the Northern Territory if the West Arnhem Savannah Burning Reduction Program that is funded to aim to offset the carbon emissions of a local LNG producer. Further similar schemes are planned, and with 40% of the NT carbon diooxide emissions coming from uncontrolled savannah fires, these finded offset programs are a subtle link in reducing CO2 and offering land management jobs for the local indigenous people. See: for a more detailed description.

Others, small and large, with accumulating soil carbon credits coming from farm management practices such as conservation tillage are also likely not to be accepted. Essentially what is done before the scheme starts does not count! That is a bit wacky if the object of the exercise is to reduce carbon and put a value on carbon saved. Moreover, with Australian agriculture working mostly with poor soils of low organic carbon levels, there are significant benefits operational as well investor interest in the accumulated soil carbon.

They intimidate that soil carbon is hard to measure accurately - I disagree, especially if you are measuring differences between years or over multiple year spans. You measure get what is there. You can get tied up with forms of carbon, labile and non labile carbon pools, and so on. Organic carbon has been measured in soils for many years. What is so hard? Plenty of others also concur with this approach.

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