While Australia fiddles over carbon trading policy, money is heading overseas, carbon forestry offsets specialist Ben Keogh says.
“We’ve got a lot of Australian companies with offsets targets for the coming year, and they’re saying we want Australian projects—but we can’t deliver them,” said Mr Keogh, who heads up Australian Carbon Traders.
“They are now investigating what projects they can get overseas. One has a budget of more than $2 million over three years.”
“There’s no time to develop Australian projects for them and get them verified in time, so we’ll be buying international credits. Trouble is, they would happily invest in Australian projects if the uncertainty would go, so all the talk about green jobs—well, there they go.”
Mr Keogh said he also has farmers on his books with big projects ready to go. “The money could be going to the Australian bush, but it’s not going to.”
A forester by training, Mr Keogh has a long history in carbon forestry.
Before setting up his own company in 2004, he ran a forestry project for Sinclair Knight Mertz in central Victoria. He then ran the Commonwealth Games tree planting project to offset emissions from the Games, and set up Landcare CarbonSMART.
When the CPRS was voted down for the second time last year, he considered moving onto something else. A couple of large consultancy projects has kept him in the game.
Mr Keogh says unlike carbon schemes set up purely to make money, he hopes his children and grandchildren are working with the same farms that he is talking to now.
“Agro forestry needs to be done primarily for the forest products. If there is some cream to be made of the top in carbon, that’s great. But it’s not why we should be planting agro forestry on farms.”
“To maximise carbon, a forester has to consider rotations of at least 30 years, followed by sustainable yield harvesting. “
“Integrating carbon management onto a farm will introduce benefits far beyond carbon trading—but only if carbon trading rules provide a range of pathways to market and not benefit one model over another, nor put carbon pool managers at an advantage over the landholder.”