ABC Country Hour Interview

Subject: Carbon Farming Initiative

Intro: Farmers could be earning carbon credits within a few months, Labor's Carbon Farming Initiative, passed Parliament last night and it aims to pay landholders to improve the environment and reduce carbon pollution. The Federal Government is really hopeful to have this scheme up and running by the end of November. Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change Mark Dreyfus told Mary Goode that the types of activities farmers can used to reduce pollution are still being finalised.

Dreyfus: The methodologies that are being developed cover a whole range of land use activities, different farming techniques, including fertilizer management, manure management, planting, re-establishing native vegetation, range lands restoration and up in the tropical top end savannah fire management practices that a number of Aboriginal communities are already engaged in.

Goode: The activities that are included or excluded are still being worked through, isn't that right? With the government still calling for comments on a draft?

Dreyfus: The final form of the positive list and negative list remains to be settled but all of this will be in place, we hope, by the end of November.

Goode: Just explain what you mean by positive list and negative list and give us an idea of what is in each list.

Dreyfus: The key example on the negative list is managed forestry schemes which we don't think are appropriate for earning carbon credits.

There are a range of other things that are going to be prohibited or not eligible for the carbon credits. Also detrimental effects on biodiversity are another thing that will be taken into account something that is contrary to a regional management plan.

The positive list are things that are actually encouraged, areas that we would want to see carbon farming activities take place on, such as very marginal land, which isn't productive at the moment, that is something that might be available for planting, restoration of native vegetation and that is the sorts of things the methodologies are being developed for.

Goode: One of the criticisms from the Coalition through this debate has been that they haven't seen a final list of activities and they are not going to vote on the bill until they have seen the final details, isn't that a fair criticism when the government hasn't released the final set of activities that farmers and landowners will be able to use to earn carbon credit?

Dreyfus: Not at all, this is a developing area the methodologies themselves are being developed and it is a misunderstanding of the nature of the scheme to stay its final detail needs to be available before legislation is passed.
What this legislation does is to set up a framework that will enable Australian landholders to assist in the emissions reduction task that we have as a nation and to do so by using approved methodologies.

The legislation sets up a system where those methodologies can be approved and sets up a framework within which we are going to make it clear that certain kinds of activities are not encouraged and other kinds of activities are encouraged.

I would expect this to be evolving over coming months, certainly when the scheme commences we are going to have a very clear idea of the parameters in which it is going to operate, but methodologies will continue to be produced into next year and the year after that and the year after that as people work through how to describe the ways in which we can achieve abatement or achieve sequestration of carbon on the land.

Goode: Other concerns raised during the Senate enquiry and during debate is whether there is enough markets and demand for these carbon credits. Who will buy these credits?

Dreyfus: We think there is no doubt that there is going to be sufficient demand worldwide, Australian carbon credits will have integrity. One of the comments that we have had received from a number of other countries already is to comment on the degree of integrity that they think this legislation is going to provide to Australian carbon credits and we have no doubt that it will be an attractive proposition for companies around the worldwide who are wanting to buy carbon credits that represent a reduction of emissions from Australia.

Goode: How much will this Scheme reduce pollution in Australia by?

Dreyfus: The CSIRO and the department (of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) have made a range of estimated as to what are likely to be the potential emissions reductions that can be achieved through these kinds of land practices.

One of the lower reductions is going to be from soil carbon which is as yet untested but there are some pretty respectable emissions reductions that are able to be achieved from the savanna fire management methodologies and very large emissions reductions potentially from one of the methodologies that now is pretty much completed which is manure management effluent management in piggeries, where there capturing, in ponds methane gas that is emitted and using it in some cases to generate electricity.