12/12/2007 - 22:00

Carbon offsets offer growth potential in marginal areas

12/12/2007 - 22:00

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The growth in the carbon offset and credit market could present significant opportunities for landholders and farmers in marginal and environmentally vulnerable areas looking for a viable alternative to grain crops.

Carbon offsets offer growth potential in marginal areas

The growth in the carbon offset and credit market could present significant opportunities for landholders and farmers in marginal and environmentally vulnerable areas looking for a viable alternative to grain crops.

In addition to offseting all or part of a business’ carbon dioxide emissions, tree-planting programs have a variety of flow-on effects, the WA Business News forum heard.

Tree planting can help to remedy issues of salinity and biodiversity, and create opportunities for farmers to generate income from planting and maintaining vegetation, while also serving to reinvigorate regional communities through the creation of new industries.

Western Australian-based carbon offset group Carbon Neutral chief executive Leo Kerr told the forum the organisation was looking to revegetate the WA landscape to help address salinity problems, particularly in the Wheatbelt, which loses about five hectares an hour to dryland salinity.

“There’s an enormous amount of work that has to be done. What our intention is with Carbon Neutral is not only sequestering the CO2, but we’re also addressing these other issues of dryland salinity and restoring native habitats,” Mr Kerr said.

 “We put in half a million trees last year. We thought that was a good effort, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a drop in the bucket of what we really need to do to achieve the sort of change which we need here in WA.”

He said the growing interest in carbon offsets had led to Carbon Neutral growing 100 per cent or more for the past three years, with the group recently finalising an order for 1.1 million trees for next year’s planting.

Mr Kerr believes that, while industry has responded to the challenge, the community response has been particularly strong.

“The leadership has really come from the grass roots on these issues, it has filtered through to business, and business has realised that it’s got a stake in this,” he said.

Iluka Group Manager Environment Health & Safety, Mark Edebone, said companies should be focused on reducing their emissions and improving energy efficiencies, before looking at carbon offsetting and credit.

“We hear a lot of people talking about sequestering, or buying credits. That’s the end game. That’s not what’s important now. It’s about focusing on reducing and replacing,” he said.

Other WA companies in the carbon offset sector include Elementree and CO2 Australia Ltd, which recently signed a landmark $100 million agreement with Woodside to offset part of the emissions from its Pluto liquefied natural gas project.

Australia’s ratification of the Kyoto protocol will allow local companies to engage in the global carbon credit market which, according to the World Bank, grew to an estimated $US30 billion in 2006.

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