Government Dropping Greenhouse Scheme Not A Friendly Act
The ending of the government’s Greenhouse Friendly scheme that has been approving carbon credits since 2001, has angered environmental companies that have invested in local projects to tackle climate change. Carbon Planet founder Dave Sag says now, with a carbon price delayed, there is genuine confusion for many on how their Greenhouse Friendly qualifying carbon project would become an NCOS (National Carbon Offset Standard) project.
Nicola Berkovic in The Australian (1 July 2010):
FROM today, Australians wishing to offset their greenhouse gas emissions will be do so in foreign countries.
They will be paying for tree-planting and clean energy projects in foreign countries because the government scheme that accredits most local carbon abatement projects is coming to an abrupt end.
Major companies such as Qantas, which until now has purchased carbon credits to offset passenger flights in Australia, will now buy them offshore.
The ending of the government’s Greenhouse Friendly scheme that has been approving carbon credits since 2001, has angered environmental companies that have invested in local projects to tackle climate change.
It has also prompted an opposition attack on the government’s green credentials, already damaged by the shelving of its carbon pollution reduction scheme. Opposition environment Greg Hunt said there could be no excuses for inaction.
The government decided to end the Greenhouse Friendly scheme because it was due to be s superseded by the CPRS.
A new national offset scheme comes into force today, but only covers abatement projects that cannot be counted towards the government’s Kyoto targets — such as soil carbon projects or vegetation that will not grow taller than two metres — which are not internationally recognised.
Sara Gipton, chief executive of not-for-profit Greenfleet, which plants native forests to soak up carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, said she was frustrated and disappointed the government had failed to respond to concerns. “It ultimately means we are reducing investment in biodiversity in Australia because the investments are going offshore,” she said.
Ms Gipton said the government should extend the scheme so local projects could be certified. And she said it must pledge not to count those projects towards its Kyoto targets, so the credits were not double-counted.
News Limited’s Amy Foxe said the organisation, which publishes The Australian, bought all verified carbon offsets for its One Degree climate change program overseas.
She said the company could not consider buying local credits until the government had a system to ensure they were internationally recognised and not counted towards government targets.
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said companies had been told early last year the scheme would be replaced by the CPRS from today. She said companies could apply to join the National Carbon Offset Standard to market carbon-neutral products.
Dave Sag founder of Carbon Planet, one of the first offset providers in Australia, has this to say on the demise of Greenhouse Friendly and the introduction of the National Carbon Offset Standard:
There is an obsession by some on this issue of imported credits that has its roots in a kind of xenophobia. The reality is however that the Earth has one atmosphere, and emissions reduced here count the same as emissions reduced in Kenya or London or Brazil.
Over the next 12 years some 80% of emissions growth is predicted to be in the so-called developing world. By financing a wind-farm project in say Bangladesh, you can support local manufacturing of wind-farm materials, lift a region out of energy poverty with clean power, and generate some revenue for a small community over and above just preventing a tonne of CO2e from hitting the air.
I believe one could make a case, on humanitarian grounds, to only buy imported credits. The government is right to be cautious about what counts and what doesn’t when it comes to voluntary emissions reduction.
The Carbon Trust is up and active, just under the hood; they need to have a coming out party or something to meet and greet the nascent Australian carbon industry.
The NCOS went live quietly the other day (1 July 2010) and behind the scenes they have worked out a pretty good transition plan for how those businesses such as Carbon Planet whose products and services were certified as Greenhouse Friendly will now be certified as ‘carbon neutral’ under the NCOS scheme.
I thought the department were highly consultative on this, and yet clearly working to a timetable. We got our badges in time for the NCOS to start, but have not yet had the time to update our website and materials.
What is an open question is how the NCOS, which was always designed to spoon up next to the CPRS, will actually function in terms of generation of domestic offsets. And this is where the tree-planting groups have a genuine right to be upset.
They would have been able to create compliance credits for afforestation projects under the CPRS as forestry was not a covered sector. Now, with a carbon price delayed, although under Gillard we may soon see a change there, there is genuine confusion for many on how their Greenhouse Friendly qualifying carbon project would become an NCOS project.
The truth is the Greenhouse Friendly standard was no longer in line with the world’s accepted best practice and was long overdue for an overhaul anyway. To support domestic credits we’ll need all sorts of infrastructure, registries, approval boards, oversight etc that the CPRS was meant to provide.
Without the CPRS as a platform, the NCOS has no choice but to look offshore for abatement opportunities that are genuine, and both financially, and carbon additional, which don’t count towards our national Kyoto obligations.