14/04/2022 - 15:55

WA scores 45% on carbon farming

14/04/2022 - 15:55

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The Carbon Market Institute has given Western Australia a relatively poor score in its inaugural ranking of states and territories on their carbon farming policies.

WA scores 45% on carbon farming
The report found all states acknowledge the importance of carbon farming. Photo: Jacqui Shultz

The Carbon Market Institute has given Western Australia a relatively poor score in its inaugural ranking of states and territories on their carbon farming policies.

Queensland was ranked highest with a score of 80 per cent while the Northern Territory was lowest with 31 per cent.

WA was ‘middle of the pack’ with a score of 45 per cent.

The report found that Australia has strong frameworks able to foster a world-leading industry but there is a need for greater policy ambition and leadership, as well as an ongoing focus on integrity and stronger alignment with private finance.

The report has been released just weeks after federal minister Angus Taylor stirred controversy in the sector by changing the way Australian Carbon Credit Units, leading to a sharp fall in their price.

The federal government also introduced new restrictions on project eligibility.

That was followed by explosive claims by former regulator Andrew Macintosh that up to 80 per cent of ACCUs issued by the government lack integrity.

The Institute, which has 130 members across the carbon farming sector, has described these claims as sensationalist.

It gave the federal government a score of 70 per cent, saying it had developed a world leading regulatory and legislative framework.

“However recent market interventions and limited overall ambition within the broader climate policy suite impacted its score,” the institute said.

Chief executive John Connor said the sector was at a critical juncture, with the framework needing to be scaled up and rejuvenated to chart a more ambitious path.

Queensland was judged to be the standout jurisdiction in acknowledging the significant role carbon farming can play in delivering the state’s environmental commitments, including emissions reduction.

The most common form of carbon farming in Queensland is human induced regeneration (HIR), which in its simplest form involves reduced stocking of livestock to allow the regeneration of native vegetation.

Carbon farming also includes the establishment of tree farms, with Perth-based Carbon Neutral a leading developer.

New South Wales had a relatively strong score of 64 per cent, following its recent $125 million commitment to its Primary Industries Productivity and Abatement Program.

The report found that South Australia (49 per cent) and Western Australia (45 per cent) have both developed carbon farming policies and assessed opportunities in their state.

It said SA’s well-established Blue Carbon Strategy and more sophisticated government engagement afforded a higher score.

The report said WA was “still grappling with legislative barriers preventing projects from being undertaken”.

It acknowledged that WA recognises carbon farming is a pragmatic tool that will contribute to achievement of its 2050 net-zero emissions goals.

Notable initiatives in WA include the $15 million Carbon Farming and Land Restoration Program, launched in July 2021.

The program intends to unlock the agriculture sector’s potential to sequester carbon and generate associated co-benefits.

It includes a Future Carbon Stream to support innovation in the sector through the funding of pilot activities and support for interested academic and research institutions.

Other state initiatives include the release of three million hectares of Crown land for carbon farming and enabling pastoralists to earn carbon credits through HIR projects.

“Greater direct funding and leveraging private sector investment could see Western Australia play a leading role in Australia’s carbon industry,” the report concluded.

It said opportunities for WA include collaboration and engagement with potential investors and resources companies to facilitate private investment in carbon farming projects.

Editor’s note: The next edition of the Business News magazine, to be published on 2 May, will include an in-depth report on carbon farming.

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