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Scientists discover agriculture - but don't forget the rules!

- Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, an environmental lobby group funded by the Purves Environmental Fund, has released a document suggesting that terrestial carbon sequestration by farmers (meaning planting extra trees and adopting practices to sequester carbon in the soil) could offset up to 25% of Australian greenhouse emissions, if this was recognised as part of the CPRS.

Interestingly, the document made only passing reference (P15) to the real stumbling block that is preventing this happening, which is the euro-centric greenhouse emission accounting rules associated with Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol.

Under those accounting rules, changes in terrestial carbon arising from natural variations (such as drought and bushfires)  are counted in the same way as man-made changes to terrestial carbon, potentially exposing farmers (and the nation) to a huge emissions liability during dry periods or after bushfires. As a result of these rules, the previous and current Australian governments have opted not to include sequestrations or emissions under Article 3.4 in the national greenhouse inventory, and have also stated that they will not be recognised as part of the CPRS. As a consequence, gross farm emissions will be included (if agriculture becomes a covered sector after 2015) but farm sequestration will not.

To resolve this problem requires either that Kyoto rules are changed (at Copenhagen) or that Australia takes the US approach and simply ignores them. Which of these - if either - might happen is an interesting question!  
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