Taking Stock of green Carbon - HSI Comment
HSI has been at the forefront of efforts to include the protection of biodiverse green carbon in Australia' s climate change mitigation strategies.
We had wanted to see green carbon incorporated into emissions trading because many years of experience has demonstrated that funding for biodiversity from central Government coffers always falls far short of real needs, whereas offsets from guilty polluters has the potential to yield significant funds for biodiversity protection. It obviously also helps to have a supplementary funding approach where a proportion of carbon price revenue is allocated to biodiversity protection programs.
So we were pleased when the deal Malcolm Turnbull did with Kevin Rudd on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) included trading in green carbon. We had worked successfully with Greg Hunt and Andrew Robb' s offices to suggest provisions related to both avoided deforestation and degradation.
Obviously it was then less than pleasing when the change in Opposition leadership lead to the demise of the CPRS. To fill the void left in the Government' s climate policy at the time, we pursued the then Climate Change Minister Penny Wong in 2010 to recommend the Government legislate a regulatory regime for the voluntary trade in domestic and internationally generated green carbon offsets. The Government' s Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) legislation now meets the suggestion for domestic offsets.
Implementing legislation for the Government' s Clean Energy Future (CEF) package has now passed through the Parliament. Overall the package is an improvement on the earlier CPRS as it contains both trading and price revenue funding provisions for green carbon protection. A $1.2 billion Biodiversity Fund will commence operating from 1 July 2012.
However, there are also some deficiencies compared to the CPRS. Under the CPRS purchase of both domestic and overseas (REDD+) green carbon offset credits was possible. With the CEF the fixed price phase which will run from 2012 ' 2015, will only allow emitters to offset 5 per cent of their emissions from the purchase of domestic green carbon credits.
Only by 2015, under the flexible price phase, will it be possible for emitters to buy unlimited amounts of domestic Kyoto compliant green carbon credits, and only by then will it be possible for emitters to buy overseas REDD+ credits. If the CPRS had been passed in 2009 Australian emitters would now be purchasing REDD+ credits and potentially contributing to the protection of rainforest in Indonesia and PNG.
HSI is reasonably pleased with its successful efforts to get Australia' s national political parties to adopt green carbon protection as part of their climate change strategies. Strategies for both avoided deforestation and avoided degradation are now well accepted ' but unfortunately politics has delayed such badly needed action by far too many years.