CMI notes with concern reported proposals to limit carbon abatement projects to one-third of a farm’s area as reported in Saturday’s Weekend Australian. Our understanding is that it remains a policy proposal at this stage with work to be done on design detail and that consultation would take place on policy detail. However, the proposal is already having material impacts on planned investments and is generating considerable uncertainty.
At their worst, such restrictions would be an extraordinary limit on landholders and property investors with risks of severe unintended consequences. It would be the only mandate under “The Australian Way Strategy”.
Potential unintended consequences include hindering credible climate and environmental actions landholders are undertaking; handicapping the development of a carbon farming industry already providing significant benefits to regional Australia; hindering opportunities for farmers activities to become carbon neutral and; challenging the ability of the Australian land sector to develop credits for emissions reduction or offsets.
Inappropriate regulatory interventions could also hinder the acceleration of sustainable agricultural productivity and land management projects that many farmers and investors are making or considering. We have been made aware of multi-million dollar investments being put on hold as investors seek to understand this proposal, the breadth of its impact, core definitional elements and the prospects of regulatory volatility.
There is uncertainty since this proposal as to whether it applies to all methods of carbon farming. Strictly applied it would make many methods, including soil carbon, environmental plantations, regeneration projects and more, economically unviable.
CMI has been aware of some of the concerns behind such a proposal and has been engaging with local councils and ministerial offices over the last year to establish the actual extent and reality of concerns. CMI is working with local, state and national governments on a study into these concerns that is due to soon get underway.
CMI recently welcomed the Government’s decision to make it a priority over the next 12 months to develop an “integrated farming” method for recognition of multiple carbon farming activities that can align with agricultural productivity and active land management outcomes. This is also an important opportunity and channel to address concerns behind this proposal.
It would appear the only way to implement such a restriction would be to amend methods or rules under the Carbon Farming Initiative and these would require consultation, however CMI urges the Government to immediately clarify the extent of this proposal, that it would not be retrospective and how policy detail or alternatives might be considered and developed.