Soil carbon scheme may be blind hope

20 Mar, 2014 03:31 AM
Projections suggest it's highly unlikely to make more than a small contribution to the 5pc target

THE government's hopes it will be able to boost participation in its flagship Emissions Reduction Fund by making it easier for farmers to win grants for ­so-called "soil carbon" abatement ­technologies may be misplaced, according to experts, who say it will not deliver a significant amount of ­emissions reduction.

Environment minister Greg Hunt on Tuesday announced soil carbon sequestration would be added to the list of techniques eligible for participation in the current Carbon Farming ­Initiative, which will form the basis of the fund.

"This brings farmers and landholders a crucial step closer to being able to participate in the Carbon Farming ­Initiative and the proposed Emissions Reduction Fund, by storing carbon in their soil and contributing to direct action on climate change," Mr Hunt said.

"It paves the way for developing methodologies for soil carbon ­sequestration, under which projects can participate in the Emissions ­Reduction Fund."

He also announced soil carbon projects would only have to prove they were effective at capturing emissions for a period of 25 years, down from 100 years.

In 2010 Mr Hunt said soil carbon could account for as high as 60 per cent of the carbon abatement needed for the country to achieve its target of reducing emissions to 5 per cent below ­2000 levels by 2020.

But the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) expressed some reluctance in ­employing the technique on a wide scale in its submission to the government's terms of reference on the Emissions Reduction Fund late last year.

"There has in the past been ­considerable focus on increasing soil carbon stocks, which the evidence ­suggests is very difficult to achieve on a permanent basis," the NFF said.

They noted the government is "enthusiastic about soil carbon, despite the evidence".

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said the public was yet to see sufficient rigour in soil ­carbon methodology.

"Soil carbon is vitally important, for building farm resilience to drought, for instance, but all credible projections suggest it's highly unlikely to make more than a small contribution to the 5 per cent target," Mr Connor said.

The technique has been ridiculed by the Greens party, which calls it "soil magic".

But in a statement Mr Hunt said he was confident the land sector could play a strong role in the Emissions Reduction Fund.

"The Emissions Reduction Fund is being designed to secure low-cost ­abatement from across the economy to deliver best value for money to the ­Australian community.

Innovation and market forces will determine how much abatement is delivered from each sector," Mr Hunt said.

During a senate inquiry hearing on Tuesday night Greens leader Christine Milne said it was unlikely many soil ­carbon schemes would win payments from the Emissions Reduction Fund as they cost too much.

A departmental official said internal modelling had shown it could be ­delivered at a lower cost, but the truth would only be known once the ­technology was deployed.

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Don't be a Wally with our money.
20/03/2014 5:39:54 AM

Pretty simple real. Let see the soil carbon evangelists as what they are, a religious movement. For the rest of us who accept the Climate Science lets get focused on real science and evidence based solutions. The Climate Juggernaut is waiting for nobody. Mitigation and adaptation actions that make a real difference are readily available. The smoke and mirrors that the soil carbon movement put forward are not a part of the solution just simply a distraction.
20/03/2014 5:50:29 AM

Well, a 1% increase is 130 odd tonne per hectare....add this up over a few million acres. Where's the down side of building soils on farms?
Frank Blunt
20/03/2014 7:20:44 AM

Wow Wally you are a wealth of information , tell us all about the settled climate science Wally that you believe in so strongly ? Your solutions to a manufactured non-problem sound positively like a bad idea.
20/03/2014 7:47:56 AM

Don't listen to the scientists Mr Hunt and just waste tax payers money to appease the coal industry whose pollution tax payers are subsidising and whose money the Coalition is taking. Continuing support for renewable energy and less dependence on coal is a proven method to reduce carbon emissions. So successful in fact the electricity operators are using every political means to stop it and trying to discredit the science. Shameful.
20/03/2014 8:04:25 AM

There is always some mutt with a negative comment on soil carbon. My property pasture has improved considerably since using my carbon seqestration program. Carbon soil tests show an improvement from .5 carbon to 2.7 There is no need for chemicals or artificial fertilizers, soil biota and fungus have returned. The project is expensive for plant, material and labour. I doubt that we could continue if there is to be no financial support from government to carry CFI through to reach expectations
Dr Who
20/03/2014 8:11:42 AM

Climate Juggernaut ??? Pffffffff. Don't be a Wally Wally .
20/03/2014 9:11:24 AM

good soil carbon = good soil management. The climate con and anything relating to it is just that 'a con'
Frank Blunt
20/03/2014 10:35:01 AM

My sentiments exactly Qlander.
20/03/2014 11:43:33 AM

Agreed high soil carbon helps make fertile soil. I had a soil scientist Dr Eric Kawabe do tests for me as far back as 1990 All my paddocks varied between 2.4% and 4.7% expressed in his terms as %humus. Ihave always incorporated stubble back into the ground, never burnt. My levels are so high I will never qualify for raising my carbon levels now someone has discovered it is the thing to do. I have always done it for the good of the soil and it shows. On a different tack see my next post about carbon abatement and the claims about carbon pollution.
20/03/2014 12:17:08 PM

As Wally says, let's get focused on real science and evidence based solutions. I will ignore the yapping in the foreground, but ask you, Qlander, to provide some evidence for your very serious claim that climate science is a "con". By evidence, I mean real, factual, scientific evidence, not wild claims from denialist blogs. How is it, Qlander, that the major scientific institutions around the world have failed to notice that they are party to a "con"? How is it that the science-literate part of the community (admittedly a minority) have, with free access to the science, failed to see this?
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