Government efforts to increase the supply of carbon credits in Australia suggest that proposed administrative changes to the Carbon Farming Initiative Regulations may be used as an opportunity to allow excluded projects to participate in the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).
Allowing carbon credit projects on land that has been recently or illegally cleared would both incentivise land clearing and undermine the purpose of the ERF in reducing emissions.
The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) is proposing amendments to the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Rule 2015 relating the excluded offsets projects.
In considering these amendments DISER has invited comment on whether projects that are currently excluded from participating in the ERF because of their negative impacts still need to be excluded. These include projects on recently or illegally cleared land or issuing carbon credits for planting weed species.
The Department has provided no evidence or information as to why projects that were previously deemed to be environmentally harmful under the Carbon Farming Initiative would no longer be so.
While it has been framed as an administrative exercise, even asking the question of whether it is still necessary to exclude these projects raises concerns about the Department’s intentions, especially in a context where the government is trying to boost the supply of carbon credits in Australia and seems willing to overlook numerous integrity concerns in doing so.
Removing land that has been recently or illegally cleared from the list of excluded projects will actively incentivise land clearing in Australia, in turn increasing emissions from clearing and undermining the sole purpose of the Emissions Reduction Fund.