THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), while welcoming the findings from the review into Australia’s carbon credit
framework, highlighted concerns about missing farmer representation and support.
The federal government last month released the final report of the Independent Review of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs), with the government accepting, in principle, all 16 recommendations by the panel, which was led by former Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb AC.
The review noted that the the Australian carbon credit unit (ACCU) scheme aims to remove greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, or to prevent their emission. In agriculture, carbon sequestration is stored in the soil. As crops photosynthesise to produce the food, they remove CO2 from the atmosphere and create oxygen. Through this chemical process, carbon is sequestered in the soil.
Carbon farming initiatives allocate one ACCU for each tonne of carbon dioxide abatement. Some ACCUs are bought by the government, some by emitters as offsets, or traded in the domestic market.
The panel warned that the scheme needed adequate resourcing. “There is no practical or cheap alternative,” the panel said.
The reported ACCU spot price had been generally averaging in the low $30 range since the announcement on contract milestone exit arrangements until it settled at just over $35 after 23 May 2022.
NFF president, Fiona Simson, said a high level of confidence and integrity within Australia’s carbon credit system was critical. “We welcome the panel’s findings that the scheme is sound, the level of abatement is correct, and the policy is effectively reducing Australia’s emissions,” she said.
“Overall, the NFF broadly supports regular reviews into the scheme, along with changes to clarify governance and improve transparency. However, some concerns remain.
“We were clear that we need to establish a skills-based board to be involved in the governance of ACCUs. While this is in in some ways supported by the new Carbon Abatement Integrity Committee (CAIC), there is a lack of farm management experience,” Ms Simson said.
The NFF recommended a farmer representative be present on this committee to help farmers and landholders engage with the consultation process. It also recommended independent and trusted advice be made available, for example through extension officers.
“None of these recommendations were in the review. However, we do support the appointment of four members to the CAIC, one being a First Nations Australian,” she said.
“We will seek clarification on what skills and experiences these four members will require and advocate that farm management experience be one of them.”
The NFF also has concerns about the review’s recommendations on avoided deforestation and that no new project registrations will be allowed under the current method.
“This recommendation fails the NFF’s test about the importance of the review being a technical, not philosophical, assessment. The recommendation also leads the NFF to be concerned the current method will conclude without the replacement being discussed or understood.”
The panel recommended that no new project registrations be allowed under the current avoided deforestation method. “Consideration should be given to developing new methods that incentivise the maintenance of native vegetation that has the potential to become a forest, as well as maintaining existing forests as risk of land-use conversion,” it said.
The panel said land clearing had accounted for a significant share of national emissions. “The avoided deforestation method is a means to avoid these emissions,” the panel said.
The review noted that there had been relatively limited use of carbon capture and storage nationally or globally. “It is considered to have an important potential contribution to limiting the pace and extent of climate change,” the panel said.