Wednesday, 9 February 2022
Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Market Bill 2022; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
It gives me great pleasure to move the Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Market Bill 2022.
Australia's farmers are some of the most important stewards of our land and environment.
They play a key role in maintaining healthy ecosystems on nearly 60 per cent of Australia's land. However, their stewardship of that land is not currently valued by the market.
We need a national voluntary agriculture biodiversity stewardship market that recognises and financially rewards them for their efforts to restore, enhance or protect biodiversity.
A voluntary national agriculture biodiversity market will enable farmers to use land not currently used for agricultural production to improve biodiversity—and receive additional income.
The market will recognise and reward farmers who undertake new plantings of native species, as well as projects where farmers actively manage their land to protect or enhance existing native vegetation.
This market will capitalise on increasing private sector interest in investing in biodiversity, as companies respond to consumer and shareholder expectations about their environmental credentials.
This market will be world leading and allow Australian farmers to highlight their biodiversity credentials to key agricultural trading partners.
It would complement the voluntary carbon market, providing an incentive for farmers to establish carbon plantings that also deliver biodiversity benefits. Environmental plantings deliver carbon and biodiversity benefits, but to date, only carbon benefits have been recognised.
To make a real difference to Australian farmers and the environment, the agriculture biodiversity stewardship market will need to achieve national scale.
Achieving a national market at scale and ensuring landholder rights are protected requires underpinning legislation.
This legislation will provide the integrity, assurance and long-term certainty the market needs to develop, encouraging participation by farmers and private buyers.
The Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Market Bill will provide the legislative framework needed to underpin a robust and readily accessible national market.
The Australian government has met with a wide range of sectors while developing the bill, including farmers, environmental groups, industry, finance sector, indigenous representatives and states and territories.
It is clear from our discussions that if we want a national market to succeed, we need three key elements: integrity, flexibility and participation.
The new legislation provides all of these.
Integrity ensures biodiversity has value—it's the cornerstone of the market—and the bill delivers integrity in a number of ways.
The bill provides a nationally consistent framework to describe and verify biodiversity outcomes on agricultural land. Biodiversity protocols, informed by science, will define project types that will achieve biodiversity outcomes. These will build on those already developed under the successful Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Package.
The bill creates an independent expert advisory committee, the Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Market Advisory Committee. This will provide independent advice to the minister for agriculture on the biodiversity protocols.
This committee will comprise, and consult with, experts from across multiple disciplines including the agriculture sector, environmental scientists and market experts.
Protocols will go through a public consultation process during development. This provides transparency and promotes public confidence.
The bill will create a new form of tradeable property, a biodiversity certificate which is issued by the Australian government.
This certificate will be an asset in its own right, separate from the land, that can be purchased, transferred, claimed or used. This allows landholders to sell the biodiversity on their land while maintaining ownership of their property.
The bill establishes a single public register for the agriculture biodiversity stewardship market, administered by the Australian government.
The register will enable tracking of certificates, provide evidence for claims made by buyers and project proponents and, over time, provide information to inform the market. It will provide transparency and confidence to the market.
Finally, the bill will ensure integrity through government assurance and compliance, with the Clean Energy Regulator to undertake regulatory functions.
Together, these elements will provide assurance and confidence to buyers that they know what they are buying, and they are getting what they paid for.
Flexibility is also key to success. Having spoken to a broad range of stakeholders, it is clear that a key barrier to participation in voluntary markets is that schemes can be complex and costly to access.
This bill will deliver a national scheme that is flexible, simple to access and streamlined. It will allow farmers to decide what activities they are willing to undertake and for how long.
Farmers will be able to supply valuable biodiversity benefits without having to permanently lock up their land.
Make no mistake. This bill is not about locking up land and displacing prime agricultural land to become a haven for pests and weeds, turning local communities into ghost towns.
This bill rewards active, adaptive, appropriate management of land by farmers.
It supports projects that will bring benefits to the environment, farmers and the broader community.
And this bill is not being submitted in isolation.
This is part of an overall package of investment being undertaken by the Australian government in agriculture biodiversity stewardship: investment in online resources and investment on the ground.
On 16 December the Australian government launched the National Stewardship Trading Platform, which provides useful tools for both buyers and sellers.
We are also building capacity and supply through our Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship pilots.
The Carbon + Biodiversity Pilot is demonstrating that farmers are willing to supply biodiversity outcomes to the market.
Given the success of our first pilot we have now launched a second round, expanding into new regions.
The Enhancing Remnant Vegetation Pilot has also proven popular with farmers, with over 100 applicants undertaking formal site assessments, and we're establishing a voluntary Australian farm biodiversity certification scheme that will allow our farmers to showcase their biodiversity management.
We continue to build on all this work.
We will develop guidance and educational materials for market participants.
And we will continue to expand our National Stewardship Trading Platform, providing both a hub of information and a way to connect buyers and sellers.
The Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Market Bill will position Australia's national biodiversity market as a trusted way to invest in robust and assured biodiversity benefits.
It will bring together interest from farmers, on the supply side, and corporate and philanthropic buyers, on the demand side.
It will reward and recognise Australian farmers, the stewards of much of our agricultural land, for their hard work and efforts in challenging environments.
This bill will increase and protect biodiversity, secure new income streams for farmers and build on the sustainability credentials of Australia's agricultural sector. I commend the bill to the House.