More than 80% of Australia’s emissions reductions contracted under the Emissions Reduction Fund (where the Australian Government purchases carbon credits) are coming from more than 245 projects in the land sector.
Farmers can offer more, and benefit more – and NRM organisations can help
The carbon market requires relatively large parcels of carbon credits so that the economic returns cover the risks, and the transaction and compliance costs. Many individual carbon projects may not be generating these volumes of credits therefore excluding many farmers, despite their willingness to participate.
The need to manage risk and commercial return has meant that commercial project developers are not able or willing to work with landholders with much smaller project activities. This means that the opportunity of multiple farmers being rewarded for their small-scale land management, or set aside / diversification opportunities on their properties is not being realised. Consequently, there is a role for a carbon aggregator to bundle small parcels of carbon credits to a marketable size or for a regional approach to support landholders to work together to develop projects of sufficient size.
The support of regional NRM organisations provides a pathway for reducing transaction costs and sharing risks across landholders. It may also be possible to use available funds to invest in projects to create carbon credits which can be sold to enable the establishment of a revolving door funding model to invest in further activities.
Carbon co-benefits – avoiding the pitfalls
Many carbon projects deliver benefits additional to greenhouse gas reductions. Many more could deliver a greater level of environmental, social and economic co-benefit. NRM regional organisations can help design projects to maximise the co-benefits and increase recognition of these benefits for
Helping regions to support carbon projects with clear environmental and social co-benefits will help address potential negative outcomes and increase community support for the Emissions Reduction Fund. This will include working with commercial carbon project developers and will preserve the integrity of the reverse auction, but encourage projects that would not be viable on the economics of the Emissions Reduction Fund alone. For example, in western NSW and Queensland, many Emission Reduction Fund projects have avoided vegetation clearance or allowing invasive native species to regenerate. In these regions, increased native vegetation may affect grazing productivity outcomes and may negatively affect erosion and feral animal control. This can also affect neighbouring properties and may lead to complications, such as higher fire risks. Some projects may have negative productivity and environmental outcomes and may therefore not be achieving real changes in emissions reductions.
Involving NRM organisations
Including regional NRM organisations in the delivery of the Emissions Reduction Fund will increase the involvement of smaller property owners and projects, while increasing the social acceptance /license for Australia’s approach to emission reductions.