What is carbon farming?
The Queensland Government has committed to reducing carbon emissions by at least 30 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 and reaching zero net emissions by 2050. This means Queensland must reimagine its landscape and economic sectors in a zero-carbon world.
Carbon farming refers to land management activities aimed at storing carbon in trees and soils, or avoiding the release of carbon through better management of fire, livestock, and fertiliser use.
Carbon farming is an integral part of our response to climate change.
In Australia, carbon farming activities that comply with specific formulas or ‘methods’ can generate carbon offsets. Carbon offsets that meet the requirements of a method are tradable commodities.
These methods include:
- Agricultural methods
These methods avoid the release of greenhouse gases like methane from activities involving cattle, dairy, and irrigated cotton. There are also methods that involve locking up greenhouse gases in the ground by increasing soil carbon.
- Vegetation methods
These methods remove carbon dioxide from the air by re-growing forests (reforestation, revegetation, and encouraging native regrowth), and avoiding the clearing of existing forests.
- Savanna burning methods
These methods use fire management practices in northern Australia to avoid highly-potent greenhouse gases being released by wildfires, and protect the carbon stored in logs and other dead vegetation.
Carbon farming in Queensland
As the global economy shifts towards a cleaner future, emitters will be looking for new and secure supplies of credits to offset their carbon impact. Our important economic sectors, such as the mining, agriculture, and tourism, are already transforming their practices to reduce emissions and minimise their environmental impact.
Queensland, due to its large land mass and natural ecology, has a comparative advantage in carbon farming to generate carbon offsets. There are already about 250 carbon farming projects in Queensland under the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).
A robust carbon farming industry in Queensland will create regional jobs and contribute to reducing Queensland’s carbon emissions, as well as provide valuable co-benefits like healthier waterways, more habitat for threatened species, and more resilient landscapes.
The Land Restoration Fund (the Fund) will continue to grow this industry through its $500 million investment, with applications for 2020 Investment Round opening in January. We have undertaken significant consultation with diverse and geographically dispersed stakeholder groups to design, develop and implement the Fund.
We have also invested in the following research:
- The Carbon Farming Industry Roadmap: a national, industry-led carbon farming sector roadmap. The Carbon Market Institute released this Roadmap in 2017 and estimated then that carbon farming could generate 10,500 – 21,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2030.
- Energetics reports (2017) about the potential value of the carbon offset market for the Queensland economy . These reports indicate that from 2017 to 2030, using a conservative approach, between $1.4 to $4.7 billion could be generated through carbon farming from the land and agriculture sector.
What is a carbon credit?
Through carbon farming, land managers can generate Australia Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs), which are equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (greenhouse gas) that is either stored or its release is avoided.
ACCUs are also tradable financial products, similar to other commodities and Renewable Energy Credits. ACCUs are generally only tradable in Australia, but there is potential that as international markets grow, there will be arrangements for trade in ACCUs to occur on a global scale.
What is the Emissions Reduction Fund?
In 2014, the Australian Government established the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) as a means to achieve Australia’s 2020 emission reduction target. The ERF has three main parts:
- crediting emission reductions
- purchasing or contracting for the supply of emission reductions
- safeguarding the emission reductions achieved.
Many Queensland land managers are already participating in the ERF as it provides a steady and diversified income from land that may not be suitable for other agricultural activities and it rewards regenerative land practises.
The Land Restoration Fund is different to the ERF because it aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also valuing the positive social, economic and environmental outcomes associated with carbon farming—the co-benefits—that are created by land sector carbon farming projects.