Australian farmers key to climate change fight -adviser

Tue Mar 1, 2011 8:51am GMT

By James Grubel

CANBERRA, March 1 (Reuters) - Australian farmers could be major winners from plans to put a price on carbon emissions, particularly as other countries also move to curb greenhouse gas pollution, the nation's top climate adviser Ross Garnaut said on Tuesday.

In a report on how carbon markets will impact on rural land use, Garnaut said farmers had a key role to play in climate change mitigation schemes, and had the potential to cash in on carbon offsets through a new Carbon Farming Initiative.

"The land sector, especially through biosequestration, has immense technical potential for reduction and absorption of emissions," Garnaut said.

"The realisation of a small proportion of that potential, through providing incentives commensurate with its mitigation contribution, would transform the Australian mitigation effort. It would also greatly expand the economic prospects of rural Australia."

Agriculture and forestry account for about 20 percent of Australian carbon emissions, but farmers will be exempt from plans to impose a fixed price on carbon from July 2012, ahead of a full emissions trading scheme three to five years later.

Garnaut said the biggest potential carbon savings for the rural sector came from carbon forestry, or from rehabilitating over-grazed rangelands. Other benefits could come from reducing methane emissions from livestock and boosting the carbon content of soils on farms.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet wants the Carbon Farming Initiative to start from July this year, to allow farmers and foresters to access domestic and international carbon credit markets.

Garnaut proposed minor changes to the Carbon Farming Initiative, to ensure that any abatement is genuine and permanent.   Continued...

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