Friday, November 30, 2012

The Emerging Carbon Economy in North Australia

The print media is all over this today, with syndicated versions of the press release on line and in print at many regional newspapers.

It could be a good thing - but there is work to do beforehand, and it will not happen overnight.

There are some issues also worth considering, that are not in the report.  Algae production has started at Karratha - growing algal cultures and harvesting for conversion to biofuel or other materials including animal feeds is promising.   So is use of duckweed especially in wastewater ponds, or any nutrient rich water source, even irrigation tailwater [ ther ewill be more of that] to clean it of nutrients before it re-enters downstream rivers.

Northern Australia has and is suffering from disinvestments in agriculture [broadly interpreted term] over many years.  There are few if any crops specifically with varieties developed for the region [ sugar may be an exception] and with major seed companies now dominating this sector I cannot see them investing in the region as the market is so small.

It may be possible to identify crop varieties from eg Brazil, or possibly through varieties developed in international centres eg IRRI or ICRISAT and used in Asian or African / Indian areas, but some work will be needed to identify them.  And governments have little appetite to spend those $$ at the moment.
While it is possible that the beef herd could expand significantly, the Australian government has not helped over recent years with their activities in curtailing the live cattle trade.  Yes, new abattoirs are coming, but they may not necessarily quickly allow for herd increases.  And can these animals be more methane efficient anyway?  If feed quality went up - maybe, and that often involves more legume in the diet - will we see more of a pangola / leucaena finishing system?  It works and that was demonstrated in the 1970s at Kununurra.

Do not hold your breath........but actively offer ideas.

The media release by the Federal government is below but the report is more difficult to find.  Try the link here for the report, and there is a summary also available -

The report is brief, 20 pages and easy to download.

Media release

Tapping the carbon market of northern Australia could provide a valuable new revenue stream for the region – once key obstacles are removed, according to a government report.

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions from fire and livestock, sequestering carbon in soils and vegetation, and the production of renewable feedstock for aviation biofuel are three of the main opportunities identified in The Emerging Carbon Economy for Northern Australia report.

"These opportunities will provide northern farmers the potential to reap a billion-dollar return," Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean said.

"CSIRO found the benefits of the carbon economy will not be confined to climate change action, but could generate environmental and livelihood benefits," he said.
The region covers some 300 million hectares north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Mr Crean said the federal government would work with state and local governments to help regions "embrace the carbon economy" by generating credits that they can sell to big emitters under its carbon market.
While the report identifies possible areas of income generation – such as a potential of $200 million dollars a year in abatement of carbon emissions through better savannah-burning management and $240 million from the livestock industry – it also specifies how much work still needs to be done.

For instance, the property rights to carbon would need clear ownership rules, while the scale of carbon stocks in the soil and its potential enhancement "warrant continued scientific enquiry", the report said.

Similarly, while indigenous groups have been able to earn carbon credits for savannah-burning under the government's Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), the report found "practical barriers to wider implementation of this method remain".

Likewise, the government is yet to approve a methodology allowing farmers to earn credits under the CFI for methane abatement efforts in the livestock industry. The northern beef herd counts some 13 million animals.

The biofuel potential could amount to 5 per cent of the jetfuel use in Australia, although that assessment also is based on "early stages of investigation", the report said.

The Coalition has vowed to scrap the carbon tax and planned emissions trading market if it wins office, although it has signalled it may continue with some of the government's carbon farming program.

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1 comment:

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