Monday, 22 August 2011
Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011, Carbon Credits (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011, Australian National Registry of Emissions Units Bill 2011; In Committee
by leave—I move amendments (11R), (11A) and (11B) on sheet 7124:
(11R) Clause 255, page 271 (after line 16), after paragraph (c), insert:(ca) to monitor scientific research relevant to the issue of permanence and to advise the Minister about best evidence in relation to permanence;
(11A) Clause 255, page 271 (line 7), before "The", insert "(1)".
(11B) Clause 255, page 271 (after line 18), at the end of the clause, add:(2) If the Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee gives advice to the Minister under paragraph (1)(ca) about best evidence in relation to permanence, the Minister must, within 28 days after receiving the advice, cause a copy of the advice to be published on the Department's website.
These amendments relate to the issue of permanence. This is something that was looked at closely by the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee and there is a discussion about this in some detail at pages 34 to 36 of the committee's report. There is a concern that a number of submitters argue that the requirement to maintain carbon stores for 100 years was too long and would discourage some potential proponents from participating in the scheme. Michael Kiely, the Chairman of the CFTA, stated, as reported on page 35 of the Senate committee report:
No farmer would be silly enough to agree to 100 years for soil carbon or 100 years for anything. A finance lender would want to know seriously the impact on the value of the property of agreeing to such a thing. We did some research into the 100 years thing and discovered it was a policy decision, not a scientific measure … We believe that 100 year is a perverse outcome. The result is said to be necessary so buyers can be confident they are getting value—that is, genuine abatements—so they get nothing. There is nothing available for them. We have found examples where the IPCC and the Verified Carbon Standard have allowed other periods of time recently—20, 25, 30-odd years. We believe we could work within that sort of time frame.
Recommendation 3 of the entire committee at clause 2.49 of the committee report at page 6 states:
The committee recommends the government continue to monitor scientific research relevant to the issue of permanence and adjust permanence obligations in the CFI to reflect international consensus on this matter.
This amendment adds to the Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee a function that it monitor all scientific research relevant to the issue of permanence and advise the minister of best evidence in relation to permanence. This was a recommendation of the Senate committee and I think it is important that DOIC as the responsible agency continue to look to update, amend and improve the scheme into the future. This amendment also provides that the advice by the committee be published on the website of the department within 28 days.
There is an issue here about the continued monitoring of permanence, given the quite serious reservations expressed in its current form. It does not seek to change the permanence provision, but it does seek to ensure that there is ongoing or continuous scrutiny of the permanence provision, looking at the best available scientific evidence.