Additional Comment from the Australian Greens
The Carbon Farming Initiative was announced in August
2010, just prior to the federal election. At the time it was an attempt to
address the vacuum created when the Greenhouse Friendly scheme ended in July, leaving
businesses in the voluntary carbon offset markets in limbo.
The announcement included very little detail about the
scheme, and there was no proposition at the time for either Labor or the
Coalition to introduce a price on carbon emissions prior to 2013. The CFI was
envisaged as a policy measure to give modest support to projects and businesses
in the voluntary market, and the Government expected that it would not play a
role in a domestic compliance market for several years.
After the 2010 election the Greens signed an agreement
with Prime Minister Gillard to provide her Government with confidence and
supply, in return for a number of measures including setting up a multi-party
committee to deliver a carbon price mechanism in this term of Government.
Subsequently the Government decided to expand the role the CFI by linking it to
emissions trading much earlier than had been anticipated.
The complexity of linking the CFI with a hybrid carbon
price model which starts with a fixed price phase is significant.
However without the Carbon Farming Initiative being in
place, there is no mechanism for creating carbon credits from the landscape and
a lost opportunity for biodiversity enhancement and for rural Australia.
There is a problem from the Greens perspective with
land planning. The CFI relies to a large extent on local and state Government
laws pertaining to land use planning, however, as demonstrated by the perverse
impacts created by the Managed Investment Scheme fiasco, either these laws or
their implementation are inadequate.
While the Greens recognise the importance of the
positive and negative lists in mitigating this problem, we remain concerned
that there is the potential for perverse outcomes. There is a risk that the
CFI will, quickly or overtime, create an incentive for land managers to alter
existing practices in ways which have negative environmental or social impacts.
It is essential that this risk is minimised in the legislation.
Therefore, the Greens do welcome the Committee's
recommendation to quickly enable NRM strategic plans to be brought up to a
common national standard. Over time NRM groups may have an increasingly
important role to play in ensuring that the CFI projects not only improve the
environment, but that they do not have negative impacts as well.
Similarly the Greens welcome the Committee's
recommendation that the Government address the legal barriers that will hamper
indigenous communities access to the scheme. This is urgent as one of the
considerable benefits of the CFI is the potential to generate income and
employment in indigenous communities.
The Greens are still considering the legislation
pending ongoing discussions concerning amendments to improve it.
Senator Christine Milne
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