Interview with Leonie Knight - ABC Illawarra Wollongong - The Country Hour

Subject: Carbon farmin

COMPERE: Well, a new handbook on the Carbon Farming Initiative is being released today.  The booklet sets out how farmers can generate carbon credits and sell them on domestic and international markets. 

Leonie Knight asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Mark Dreyfus, about the booklet.

MARK DREYFUS: The Carbon Farming Initiative Handbook is a simple guide to Australian farmers and land holders to show them how they can make money by generating carbon credits out of their land use activities.

LEONIE KNIGHT: How did you decide on the content for the book?

MARK DREYFUS: We decided on the content for the book out of a range of consultations that we've undertaken over the past several months by talking to the National Farmers Federation and other farming groups, land care groups, state agriculture departments, to try to make sure that we can get it out in a simple form, information about how farmers can participate and earn money, by generating carbon credits on their land. We want to get information out there.

LEONIE KNIGHT: Mark, that being the case you'd have a pretty good handle on farmers' concerns about the Carbon Farming Initiative.  How do you see them?

MARK DREYFUS: I think farmers are very keen to get information.  They're keen to know how soon they'll be able to participate because there's a range of methodologies. There's four methodologies that have already been approved, but a range of other methodologies that are being prepared, and of course there are individual methodologies that are suitable for some kinds of farms and not others.  There's a need for farmers to know whether or not their kind of farming is going to be suitable and what they have to do to take advantage of the carbon farming initiative.

LEONIE KNIGHT: Now, Mark, cutting to the chase, how would it actually help Australian farmers create extra revenue?

MARK DREYFUS: They'll be able to earn carbon credits and sell those carbon credits to polluters around the world who need those credits for offsets and earn money by doing so.

LEONIE KNIGHT: So how will that carbon market work?

MARK DREYFUS: There's already carbon markets in the world particularly in Western Europe, where for several years now you've had polluters needing to purchase carbon credits for offset purposes.  The Australian carbon price cheme will commence on 1 July this year and move to a trading system three years after that in 2015, and Australia will be participating in what will be and already is a world market for these carbon credits.

LEONIE KNIGHT: How ground breaking is this initiative from a global perspective?

MARK DREYFUS: There's tremendous interest across the world in the development of these methodologies in Australia.  It's seen as ground breaking because it's a way in which the land sector, can participate in the world task of reducing emissions. 

It is seen as innovative and I'm very enthusiastic about that because not only is this going to be an opportunity for Australian farmers to earn money by generating credits, it's likely we'll be able to export some of the technologies that are being developed here to other places in the world where they want their land sectors to contribute to reducing emissions.

LEONIE KNIGHT: There's an old expression that the pioneers get the arrows and the settlers get the land.  What are the risks here of being a first mover?

MARK DREYFUS: I don't think that there are many risks of being first movers here.  Australian farmers will be able to benefit by being first movers, because they'll be able to earn carbon credits and earn money from participating in emissions reduction activities.  I also think that there is a very high level of integrity. That's one of the reasons why there's worldwide interest, because of the way we've set up this system, where methodologies have to be approved first by this domestic offsets integrity committee.  There will be a high degree of assurance that what people are buying when they buy Australian carbon credits generated from our land sector in this carbon farming initiative, do in fact represent real emissions reductions, which of course is what people want when they're buying carbon credits.

LEONIE KNIGHT: What is the Government going to do to assist the roll out of this initiative?

MARK DREYFUS: We've got funds that are assisting in the development of methodologies.  We've got funds that are available to assist farmers in taking advantage of those methodologies once approved.  We've got funds that are going to assist with land care groups and extension groups and extension workers to get information out to Australian farmers so that they will be able to participate. 

COMPERE: That's Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Mark Dreyfus talking there to Leonie Knight.