Thursday, 4 June 2009
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009
Consideration in Detail
I thank the members again for their contribution to the debate on the amendments that have been proposed by the government. In particular, the members for New England and Lyne—supported by the member for Kennedy—raised a number of issues relating to those amendments concerning reforestation and they touched upon matters of soil carbon. In response to those issues: the forest carbon science is far more mature than the science relating to soil carbon sequestration. In fact, the measurement of forest carbon in the CPRS has been designed to be consistent with internationally agreed methodologies. That has been possible because the science underpinning measurement of carbon stored in forests is now very well established. In fact, forest carbon has been credited in Australia, as I am sure the members are well aware, since 2003. For this reason, the inclusion of these amendments in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill and ultimately their operation under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme when it is enacted will help Australia through reforestation projects meet its international commitments.
I will go to those amendments in slightly more detail. Under the amendments, the government has the intent of encouraging carbon pollution reductions before the start of the full-scale scheme on 1 July 2011 for eligible reforestation projects, because they will be able to generate permits for carbon stored from 1 July 2010. This will indeed create economic opportunities in regional Australia. It is the case that the benefits of scheme participation will be the greatest for owners of new forests that will not be harvested. Scheme participation may not be as beneficial, for example, for those with mature plantations because they have little capacity for additional carbon sequestration or, alternatively, for single rotation plantations such as those owned through managed investment schemes. The member for Lyne made some reference to this. That is because the cost of obligations under the scheme could exceed the value of any permits received for carbon sequestration. But, in addition, forests established under the scheme may deliver additional benefits for regional Australia, including wind protection or improvements in water quality.
A number of issues were raised about the potential impact of these measures on land use. That is a matter on which the government will maintain a close monitoring role. The member for Lyne also referred to the extremely pertinent issues of biodiversity and the relationship of these reforestation measures to the promotion of biodiversity. That is a matter of which the government is extremely conscious and on which work is continuing. It is an area that my colleague the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong, and I are continuing to work on very closely with the department at the moment. On the issue of sequestration of carbon in soil, there are two prerequisites, given that the science is far less mature than that for sequestration in forests. The two prerequisites for credit from increases in soil carbon to be included in the CPRS are the further development and maturation of the science based upon Australian soils and changes to the international carbon accounting rules. The government is actively working on both of those fronts.
Finally, there has been no case made for delay of consideration of these bills. In my earlier summing up I addressed all of the issues raised by the member for Goldstein a moment ago. It is clear that the attempt by the coalition to cause delay in consideration of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation is because of division on that side of politics. This is the greatest environmental reform that an Australian government has undertaken. It requires leadership. The science of climate change demands action. The government is taking that action, and I commend the amendments and the bill to the House. I move:
That the question be now put.