More than a million wild camels in Australian

By Tina Perinotto

29 June 2011 – Shooting camels, burning savannah in special mosaic formations and capturing methane gasses from pig manure to make energy are just some of the methodologies under consideration  before the federal government’s carbon farming legislation can make it through the Upper House.

The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011 legislation passed through the Lower House of Parliament on 16 June, but key lobbyists for carbon farming, say that’s the easy part. The tough work still to come is to ensure methodologies on carbon capture are Kyoto compliant so that credits can be traded on the global market.

The first methodology, released by the federal government on Monday  (27 June) is for permanent plantings of native trees. Another is on how to improve manure management in piggeries.

Among the submissions the government will receive related to further methodologies over the next few weeks will be one from the Carbon Farmers of Australia association for soil carbon sequestration.

“It features five year renewable contracts and risk management by a self-insurance buffer pool system,” the association said in a newsletter to members on 17June.

For many farmers the carbon farming initiative could change the game for a precarious existence on the land and give them an additional cash flow.

Pigs and trees
Parliamentary secretary for climate change and energy efficiency Mark Dreyfus  said the environmental plantings could help rehabilitate degraded farmland, improve dry land salinity, reverse soil acidity and provide habitat for wildlife.

“As well as opening up a new revenue stream for landholders and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, environmental plantings have the potential to improve the landscape’s resilience to the effects of climate change”, Mr Dreyfus said.

On piggeries, he said the collection and combustion of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, was a powerful mechanism.

“With 682 piggeries in Australia, this methodology is generating a lot of interest in the industry”, Mr Dreyfus said.

“In piggeries, most methane emissions are produced through manure that is collected in uncovered lagoons. By covering those lagoons, operators can capture the methane and burn it, releasing a less potent greenhouse gas.”

Farmers could also capture the gas and use it to generate electricity which could earn them income in addition to the carbon credits.

Soil sequestration
Carbon Farming of Australia association spokeswoman Lousia Kiely told The Fifth Estate the soil sequestration methodology has been designed from a farmer’s point of view.

“Anything less would defeat the purpose of the legislation,” Ms Kiely said.

Ms Kiely said the big stumbling blocks for the legislation were the need to prove the carbon abatement could be Kyoto compliant.

The key to the methodologies for acceptable carbon abatement practices were that they be long term and that they not be currently used by the farmer, in other words they will  be “additional” to current carbon abatement practices, Ms Kiely said.

Longevity of the carbon abatement was  problematic in Australia because of this country’s erratic and extreme climate.

“The other Kyoto requirement is that abatement be additional to business as usual,” Ms Kiely said. For instance it is important that a farmer be able to show that the abatement is not “business as usual”.

“A farmer who has controlled grazing and natural farming on his books…you can see he’s been doing that for quite some time [won’t be considered]” Ms Kiely said.

“So proving what a farmer does is business as usual is very tricky.” Proving that the carbon farming is in addition to this is even trickier, she said.

“He has to show that he has changed something because of the incentive of getting credits.”

Biochar, for instance, would be considered because this was not currently being used.

Another stumbling block is an agreed measurement regime or protocol, but Ms Kiely said she believed the association had the answer.

The delays and difficulties were understandable. “The reason for so much detail being left to the regulation process is because this is a world first on so many fronts that we are inventing processes as we go. If we wait until all the details are worked out, we will never get started, ” Ms Kiely said.

Other methodologies under consideration included practices such as camel shooting because this would save considerable methane gases; and  the selective burning of savannah in mosaic patterns instead of the usual wide scale burning because selective burning could be shown to save carbon on conventional practices.

Methodologies under consideration

The Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee is currently considering the following proposed carbon farming initiative methodologies.

Public comments on the proposed methodologies are invited for a period of 30 days from publication. For details see  DOIC@climatechange.gov.au

Proposed methodologies

Proponent

TitleEligible activityStatus
Department of Climate Change and Energy EfficiencySavanna burningSavanna fire managementOpen for consultation

Deadline for public comments 30 June 2011

Department of Climate Change and Energy EfficiencyCapture and combustion of landfill gasAvoided emissions from legacy waste deposited in landfillOpen for consultation

Deadline for public comments 30 June 2011

Northwest Carbon Pty LtdManagement of large feral herbivores (camels) in the Australian rangelands*Feral animal managementOpen for consultation

Deadline for public comments 30 June 2011

Department of Climate Change and Energy EfficiencyDestruction of methane generated from manure in piggeriesManure management in intensive livestock farmingOpen for consultation

Deadline for public comments 26 July 2011

Department of Climate Change and Energy EfficiencyEnvironmental PlantingsReforestationOpen for consultation

Deadline for public comments 26 July 2011