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Confusion about the future role for agriculture in the CPRS?

- Friday, October 23, 2009

There seems to be some inconsistency amongst politicians about the possible future role of agriculture in the CPRS. While Ministers acknowledge that the current Kyoto Protocol accounting rules make no sense for Australian agriculture, the Government seems determined to only consider a role for agriculture that is consistent with the current rules, irrespective of the science.

This was highlighted in the Second Reading speech of Greg Combet this week, in re-introducing the CPRS legislation in the House of Representatives. In relation to agriculture he said "Agriculture is not currently in the CPRS, but the government has not ruled out including it in the future— from 2015 at the earliest. The CPRS bill does, however, provide for domestic offsets for reforestation. This is a crediting mechanism to encourage reductions in carbon pollution before the scheme starts. So that can be achieved, proponents of approved reforestation projects will be eligible to receive emission units for increases in carbon sequestration taking place from 1 July 2010.
These emissions units will then be available for purchase by liable entities—the large emitters and fuel suppliers—as an alternative to reducing
their emissions or purchasing emissions units from other sources.

Given that there has been some discussion about including additional offsets
in the CPRS, the government believes it is important to keep in mind the following points. First, offsets should only be available for sectors that are outside the CPRS. There would be double counting if offsets are provided for abatement that would also be recognised through reductions in CPRS obligations.

 Second, offsets should count towards Australia’s international commitments. Otherwise, Australia would need to tighten its scheme cap, with a cost to industry and consumers, or purchase Kyoto units on the international market, costing taxpayers.

Third, practical issues of measurement and administration have to be considered in detail. Some of these are as yet insufficiently defined.”

This raises some interesting questions in the event that no progress is made in negotiating more comprehensive (and sensible) land sector accounting rules at Copenhagen. Will Australia simply persist with adherence to those rules despite the enormous penalty they impose on Australian agriculture, simply because to reject them them (and in effect move away from the Kyoto Protocol in a similar manner to the USA) doesn't suit the political narrative that has been defined by the notion that ratification of the Kyoto Protocol proves a Government's committment to being serious about climate change? 

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