This project was initiated as a result of the Australian Government legislating a carbon price in 2010. The so called ‘Carbon Farming Initiative’ also invested in community and industry projects that increased opportunities for land managers to sequester carbon via changed land use. The emerging ‘carbon economy’ represented a major and constructive development in Australia’s approach to natural resource management. The Australian Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative “.. was a carbon offsets scheme that was to provide new economic opportunities for farmers, forest growers and land managers while also helping the environment by reducing carbon pollution. Farmers and land managers were encouraged to generate credits that could then be sold to other businesses wanting to offset their own carbon pollution.”
Our goals for this project were twofold:
- Demonstrate carbon sequestration on marginal agricultural land (steep hill country) via biodiversity plantings and natural regeneration.
- Engage landholders in discussions about carbon farming and promote the opportunities for financial gains, through carbon credits, to landholders seeking biodiversity gains from nature conservation works on their own properties.
Substantial time was invested by this project in understanding the CFI and in developing approaches and tools to engage with landholders. The project developed several documents that attempted ot demystify carbon markets within the CFI, including: ‘Carbon Credit Facts Sheet’, ‘Applying the CFI to a Local Sites’, ‘Break-even Projections Under a Varying Carbon Price’.
In September 2013 the new Australian Government announced it would scrap the carbon price and replace it and other previously enacted regulatory tools and with a ‘direct action plan’. It is not clear what form this new carbon abatement scheme will take. This change of direction means we can no longer engage in the carbon discussion with any confidence, during the period of the project. Whilst the project can still argue the merits of sequestering carbon via biodiverse plantings and protecting remnant vegetation on private land, it is no longer able to advise landholders about entering a commercial carbon market, as the nature of the Australian carbon market is unknown, while legislation and regulations are in limbo.
Nonetheless, the on-ground changes enabled by this project will still have substantial carbon sequestration outcomes, regardless of the policy and regulatory framework and as such will also have significant nature conservation and catchment management outcomes.