Explainer: What is carbon farming and the Emissions Reduction Fund?

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PHOTO: Under carbon farming, Fairlight Station can get carbon credits worth millions. (Supplied: Cheree Callaghan)

As the pot of money for carbon farming projects runs out, ABC Rural explains what the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) is and how agricultural projects have benefited.


What is the ERF auction?

The Emissions Reduction Fund is an allocation of $2.55 billion of Federal Government money to pay for carbon abatement projects.

The energy sector is not able to participate in the scheme.

The government is the only buyer, so it’s taxpayer money, not private sector finance, paying for the carbon credits.

The scheme works via a reverse auction system, so proponents put in their lowest bid of what they can afford to do for the price.

The first auction was held in April 2015 and there is $440 million remaining in the fund for the fifth auction.

So far, the ERF has bought contracts to abate 180 million tonnes of carbon for up to 10 or 20 years.

The results from the fifth ERF auction held on April 3 will be announced on April 13.

What projects have been winners?

Australia’s system of awarding carbon offsets for carbon farming is considered one of the highest quality, best regulated, and with the strongest legal backing of any carbon offsets in the world, according to the Climate Institute.

Avoided deforestation:

The first auction spent $660 million, with the majority going to a small area of drought-affected NSW.

Sixty per cent of the contracts were awarded to projects at Bourke and Cobar, in western New South Wales, where farmers committed to avoiding clearing native vegetation.

Since then, up to 115 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) has been contracted from landholders around Australia, fencing off native vegetation or creating new plantings.

Methane from piggeries:

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times heavier than carbon dioxide.

By collecting methane off effluent dams and generating biogas, piggeries can power their sheds and sell electricity back to the grid.

So far, 11 piggeries have registered with the ERF, for $10.4 million, to abate 200,000 tonnes of CO2e.

This equates to 13.5 per cent of Australia’s pork being sourced from farms with biogas systems.

Piggeries with more than 500 sows can potentially save up to $5 on the cost of producing each pig.

Savanna burning:

Raging savanna fires contribute 4 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gases.

Savanna burning projects have won contracts for northern Australian Indigenous landowners and graziers, where mosaic burns are conducted in cooler months of January to June to reduce hot tropical fires.

Cattle, sheep producers:

Meat and Livestock Australia calculated that of the first three auctions, $1.7 billion spent by the ERF, landholders and red meat producers had won 65 per cent or $1.1 billion worth of contracts.

Since then there have been more.

The money largely went to projects for revegetation, avoided deforestation, pig methane offsets, soil carbon, and savannah burning.

Overall, the ERF has delivered timely income for farmers, generating $239 million annual revenue for landholders, according to the Australian Farm Institute.

Is the scheme flawed?

Economists argue many projects would have been done anyway as good business sense.

The price started higher, at $14 per tonne of carbon dioxide, when landholders in western NSW were big winners.

A handful of landowners fenced off native vegetation, protected it from feral animals and weeds, and secured 60 per cent of the first auction contracts, at least $300 million over 10 years.

Paul Burke, an environmental economist at the Australian National University, said it was an expensive way to buy carbon offsets that could have been done anyway, to make economic sense.

“Large sums of money, often many times the value of the land, have been awarded to projects for little effort,” Dr Burke said in September 2016.

Since then, the price for carbon has been pushed so low that other critics claim many seeking contracts find it is not worth their while.

Reputex, analysts of energy and emissions markets, said many contracts already secured were “stranded” seeking better carbon prices on the voluntary market overseas.

Why are greenhouse gas emissions still growing?

On current government figures, based on 2016 carbon dioxide levels, Australia’s emissions will grow by 10 per cent by 2030, to 592 million tonnes a year.

That is falling well short of the Paris commitment to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels over that time.

Analysts point to a lack of focus on energy, despite the closure of the Hazelwood power station in Victoria.

“While 80 per cent of Australia’s emissions come from burning fossil fuels, 80 per cent of the Government’s Emission Reduction Fund has been spent on land carbon sequestration,” Reputex stated.

In its 2016 report, the Climate Council said burning of Australian fossil fuels both here and overseas, produced 6.5 times as much carbon as the land can sequester.

“While storing carbon on land is useful for combating climate change, it is no replacement for reducing fossil fuel emissions,” Martin Rice and Will Steffen from the Climate Council said.

Eighty per cent of the money from ERF is dedicated to land emissions, which has managed to secure only three per cent abatement a year, while emissions from fossil fuels continue to contribute 75 to 80 per cent of our greenhouse gases.

Is there any more money?

Industries are closely watching the forthcoming Federal budget to deliver more money for landholders to sequester carbon.

A Federal review of climate change policy was released on March 27 this year. A six-week public consultation period is open until May 5.

The review states that Australia’s commitment to the Paris climate change agreement of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

It expects Australians will halve their emissions, per capita, and energy intensity will be reduced by two thirds.

A statement from Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg gave no indication there was any consideration for more money in the budget. The statement said the government’s climate policy was under review.

“The government is committed to adopting a non-ideological approach to emissions reduction to ensure we secure the lowest cost of abatement,” the statement said.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the contributors of the ABC Australia and was retrieved on 04/16/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

Carbon emissions from 2015 fires in Southeast Asia greatest since 1997: New study

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fire-drone

MEDIA ADVISORY


Carbon emissions from 2015 fires in Southeast Asia greatest since 1997: New study

28 June 2016 – A new study of the forest and peatland fires that burned across maritime Southeast Asia in 2015 has found that the carbon emissions were the largest since 1997, when an even stronger El Niño also resulted in extended drought and widespread burning.

Using a pioneering combination of regional satellite observations, on-the-ground measurements in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) modeling framework, the study’s authors determined that the daily carbon emissions released by the fires in September and October 2015 were higher than those of the entire European Union (EU) over the same period.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, was carried out by a team led by Vincent Huijnen of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and Martin J. Wooster of King’s College London and the NERC National Center for Earth Observation, and included Daniel Murdiyarso and David Gaveau from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Read about the study on Forests News here.  Access the full paper here.

In September and October 2015, dry conditions and the delayed onset of seasonal rains contributed to extensive landscape fires, with the resulting smoke strongly impacting air quality in the region and the health of millions of people.

This research team is the very first to have measured the ground-level smoke composition from active peatland burning in the region. They combined that data with satellite information to derive the first greenhouse gas emissions estimates of the 2015 fires, finding that 884 million tons of carbon dioxide was released in the region last year – 97% originating from burning in Indonesia. The corresponding carbon emissions were 289 million tons, and associated carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions 1.2 billion tons.

Satellites provided data on the heat output being radiated by the fires, as well as information on the amount of carbon monoxide present in the surrounding atmosphere. From this, the total carbon emissions were calculated by combining those measurements with the newly determined emission factors of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane measured at fires burning in October 2015 outside of Palangka Raya in Central Kalimantan province – one of the hardest-hit fire sites.

“There have been some isolated studies before where people artificially set fires in the lab to try to understand the chemical characteristics of peatland fire smoke in Indonesia. But no one had done this on natural fires, and especially not on the kind of extreme fires seen in 2015. We are the first people to do that,” said Wooster.

The results indicate that regional carbon dioxide emissions from landscape fires were 11.3 million tons per day in September and October 2015, exceeding the EU’s daily rate of 8.9 million tons. Further, 77% of the regional fire carbon emissions for the year occurred during that time – at the peak of the fires.

The scientists also compared their results to those of the 1997 El Niño-related fires in the region.

“In 1997 the drought lasted longer, the fires were more severe and a lot more forest burned. In 2015, fires mostly burned on degraded peatland covered with shrubs and wood debris,” said CIFOR scientist David Gaveau.

The study’s results have wide implications for future research, whether it is in respect to studies of landscape burning or the impacts of fire emissions on climate and public health, and they contribute to better understanding the need for fire prevention and improved landscape management.

“What is important is the applicability of a study like this in helping policy makers to use more accurate fire emission factors to design policy and act to prevent further fires and greenhouse gas emissions,” CIFOR scientist Daniel Murdiyarso said.


For more information about this article, please contact:

Contacts:
Martin J. Wooster
King’s College London and NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO)
Email: martin.wooster@kcl.ac.uk

Daniel Murdiyarso
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia and Department of Geophysics and Meteorology, Bogor Agricultural University, Bogor, Indonesia
Email: d.murdiyarso@cgiar.org; Tel: +62-251-8622622 (Office)



Article Disclaimer: This article was published at CIFOR on 26th June 2016 and retrieved on 7th July 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views, thoughts and findings in the article remains those of the authors. Please cite the original source and INDESEEM appropriately.