The current centrepiece of Australia’s climate change mitigation efforts is the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), a voluntary offsets scheme in which participants are issued carbon credits for projects which involve emissions reductions or carbon sequestration.
Almost 75 per cent of ERF projects to date have been undertaken in the land sector. These projects are jointly responsible for around 50 per cent of the greenhouse gas abatement realised under the scheme so far, which totals almost 22 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.
There are a number of methods available to landholders for sequestering carbon in vegetation. The methods prescribed vary from the implementation of management regimes under which previously-cleared land naturally regenerates to a forest state, the planting of native vegetation, to the protection of native vegetation, which would have otherwise been cleared for agricultural uses.
The vast majority of vegetation projects in the ERF are undertaken on marginal land. In western New South Wales, large tracts of land which would have been subject to broadscale clearing will be preserved in a forest state under the ERF for 100 years.
The ERF includes a number of methods for reducing emissions from ruminants. Although, the only projects to be registered thus far, relate to piggeries and cover projects which involve the capture of biogas generated by the decomposition of manure waste in anaerobic lagoons, and the combustion of the methane using flaring systems.
Australia’s experience showcases opportunities available in the land sector for realizing emissions reductions and carbon sequestration, and illustrates how market mechanisms can be used to incentivise these activities, directing investment towards the most efficient means of generating abatement.