Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Garnaut pushes soil carbon scheme

15 April 2011, Page: 4

Julia Gillard's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, will push the federal government to include agricultural carbon sequestration in its emissions reduction regime when he delivers his final paper next month. Professor Garnaut, who was visiting a sustainable farming operation near Armidale in northeast NSW yesterday, called on the federal government to provide additional funds from revenue raised by the carbon price to boost research into soil carbon sequestration techniques.

He was in Armidale, in the New England electorate of key independent Tony Windsor, to deliver a public lecture on his series of eight papers updating his 2008 climate change review. The final Garnaut report to the government on May 31 will include a budget on how to include the carbon offsets created by soil sequestration in the emissions trading scheme. He has previously said up to 14% of the carbon permits scheme could be used for agricultural offsets, creating the equivalent of a new wool industry for the agricultural sector.

The inclusion of agricultural offsets in the program would involve the government making a major departure from Kevin Rudd's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which did not include the measure. Professor Garnaut was visiting Lana, owned by Tim and Karen Wright, who have dramatically increased the yields from their property, including during severe droughts, by ceasing the use of phosphate fertilisers and using ecologically sustainable methods to manage their property.

The result has been a massive increase in the soil microbes, which has boosted the carbon content of the soil, increased its water holding capacity and made the property drought resistant and able to carry more sheep. Professor Garnaut told a small gathering at the Wrights' farm yesterday he wanted direct linking of land sequestration to the carbon pricing scheme. He said farmers should be allowed to derive the benefits of increasing the carbon content of soil even if they were doing so to boost their profits.

Professor Garnaut's trip, at the invitation of Mr Windsor, came as the rural independent MP warned the government yesterday he would not "vote for something that does nothing". "There is no carbon tax, there may not be a carbon tax", Mr Windsor told ABC radio. "The Prime Minister doesn't have the numbers, as I understand it at the moment. But Ms Gillard played down the significance of Mr Windsor's comments, saying the independent MP had consistently said he would not commit to anything until the legislation was finalised.