PROTECTION OF TERRESTRIAL CARBON MUST BE AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE GOVERNMENTS CLIMATE CHANGE STRATEGY
Humane Society International (HSI) has called upon the Government to ensure that the protection of terrestrial carbon (particularly all forms of native vegetation) is given effective coverage in any national climate change market based scheme, whether voluntary or of a compliance based type.
“While there has been an understandable focus on measures that encourage polluters to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, the retention of terrestrial carbon in the natural stores of vegetation and soil should also be an integral element of the Government’s climate change legislation,” said Mr. Rod Holesgrove, HSI’s Biodiversity and Climate Change Policy Adviser.
Apart from the often low cost carbon abatement benefits of terrestrial carbon protection and enhancement, such actions will also provide a number of important co-benefits. These include the many critical benefits that flow from the protection of biodiversity – part of the Planet’s life support system and the sustainability of our agricultural and food supply sector.
HSI has recently written to Climate Minister Greg Combet proposing a number of measures to achieve this important outcome.
In regards to the voluntary Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) legislation now before the Parliament, it will be important to ensure that the measures in the Bill for the protection or enhancement of terrestrial carbon transition are also fully covered in the proposed ‘carbon tax/emissions trading scheme’ arrangements to put a market price on emissions.
Both within the CFI legislation and a carbon tax/emissions trading regime, HSI is of the view that provisions relating to ‘avoided deforestation’ also need to cover ‘avoided forest degradation’ – i.e. stopping logging and other actions that degrade carbon stores in native vegetation.
“HSI supports the introduction and passage of legislation that provides for an effective carbon pricing regime, although our preference remains for the immediate introduction of a cap and trade scheme,” said Mr. Holesgrove.
Because the protection of terrestrial carbon is so important, HSI considers that in the fixed carbon price phase, carbon emitters should be able to offset their carbon tax obligations through the purchase of terrestrial Kyoto compliant credits.
“We also consider that polluters should be able to offset part or all of their carbon tax obligations by purchasing credits issued for appropriate REDD projects, i.e. those that reduce emissions by preventing logging or clearing of intact forests in developing countries such as in Indonesia,” said Mr. Holesgrove. (The latter proposal is put forward on the basis that while Australia has to play its part in reducing emissions domestically, dangerous climate change will only be averted by global action, such as reducing tropical forest loss).
Similar arrangements should apply in the subsequent cap and trade phase. That is, an arrangement similar to the previous Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) should apply, i.e. avoided deforestation/degradation should be treated as a Kyoto credit and polluters should be able to offset part or all of their obligations by purchasing domestically generated terrestrial carbon credits.
Also as with the CPRS, Australian polluters should be able to purchase overseas REDD credits.
In addition, the Government has stated in relation to its carbon pricing arrangements that from all of the money raised from a carbon tax/emissions trading scheme, a proportion would be used to “tackle climate change”. HSI contends that ‘tackling climate change’ should include the allocation of part of the carbon tax/emissions trading revenue for protection of terrestrial carbon stores, e.g. stewardship payments to landholders for protecting their native bush.
Mr. Holesgrove noted in conclusion “Regardless of whatever carbon market scheme is adopted (voluntary of compliance) adequate funding needs to be provided for the development of appropriate methodologies for reporting and accounting for carbon stores maintained by ‘avoided degradation’ projects.”