Agriculture advised to branch out

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

Agriculture has a big role to play in reducing carbon emissions, according to Australian Farm Institute director Mick Keogh.

But Mr Keogh said it was important that farmers understood Australian carbon policy before they started planting trees.

“On the one hand there is a cost imposed on polluters to encourage the move away from methods which produce high emissions, and the other side is what’s called the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), ” he said.

Mr Keogh said the CFI could be a source of revenue for Australian farmers, however, there were costs involved in taking part.

Planting trees may cost about $2500 to $3000 per hectare and sowing pastures likely to sequester soil carbon could cost $200 to $230 per hectare not including fertiliser costs.

Trees would be audited every three to five years.

Once mature, in 20 to 50 years, they would no longer generate credits but would need to be maintained for up to 100 years.

“The Government wants to reduce carbon emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050, ” Mr Keogh said.

“Big emitting companies will need to pay permits for their emissions or buy carbon offsets.”

Mr Keogh said the carbon price was expected to increase from $23 per tonne at about 5 per cent per annum.

“If the price of permits is $30/t and you could plant trees for $25/t, then it’s an incentive to plant trees, because it’s cheaper than buying carbon permits, ” Mr Keogh said.

“Once the scheme is in place the Government will start to release less permits, so the supply drop will drive the purchase of trees to get to that target.”

Mr Keogh said if farmers could reduce their existing emissions, they would be eligible for a carbon credit.

“If you can sequester or lock up carbon from the atmosphere in a fixed form, you can get a credit and get paid for it, ” he said.

“However the actions must be additional, it can’t be business as usual or something you are already doing.

“With sequestration the trees or pastures have to be permanent and a carbon sink forest can only be established on land that was free of trees on January 1 1990.

“There must be more than 0.2 hectares of trees capable of growing more than 2m in height and the eventual forest will have more than 20 per cent ground cover.”

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