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Carbon-conscious companies could be park protectors
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Carbon-conscious companies could be park protectors

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(Article by Murray Griffin for CE Daily, first published on January 27, 2015)

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Key points:

* The Victorian Government should make use of Part 5 of the Climate Change Act, which prescribes rules for carbon sequestration on Crown Land, says Greenfleet.

* This would create opportunities for offset providers to undertake biodiverse plantings in national parks and other areas on behalf of businesses that voluntarily want to shrink their carbon footprint.

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- The new Victorian Government should use its powers to allocate carbon rights so that companies can help fund national park plantings, and other states should follow suit, says a leading offset provider.

Greenfleet chief executive, Wayne Wescott, sees little scope for organisations such as his to successfully participate in the Emissions Reduction Fund, given its focus on buying the lowest-cost abatement.

But there are major opportunities if the State Government utilises Part 5 of the Victorian Climate Change Act, which prescribes rules for carbon sequestration on Crown Land, he told CE Daily.

Part 5 empowers the Government to declare areas of Crown Land available for use for carbon sequestration and to enter into sequestration agreements that would in part allocate carbon rights in those areas.

Sequestration agreements would give both parties confidence that the environmental plantings would be left untouched for at least 100 years and that the carbon rights wouldn't be resold, said Wescott.

And that, in turn, would allow organisations such as his to carry out plantings in national parks on behalf of companies that voluntarily opt to reduce their carbon footprint and simultaneously help build Australia's "green infrastructure", he said.

Plantings in parks and on Crown Land would offer a much more strategic approach than programs such as the Federal '20 million trees' initiative, he added.

Major campaign in the works

Wescott said his organisation is gearing up for a major campaign to encourage the Andrews Labor Government to make use of Part 5 of the Act.

All that is needed is some political will, Wescott said, adding that Parks Victoria is very supportive.

"It's legal and can be done now and so we are hoping that [Environment Minister] Lisa Neville will say 'let's make this happen'."

"I suspect this year things will move very fast and we would certainly see this as a quick win, but one that has got very long-term benefits for the state," he said.

Nor does the concept only have applicability to Victorian parks.

A similar approach could assist cash-strapped local governments that often administer large areas of Crown Land, Wescott said.

Ideally the Federal Government should lead a national effort to explore the concept, according to Wescott, who said Environment Minister Greg Hunt was supportive of the general approach.

'Smart companies don't go backwards'

Wescott isn't in any doubt that many companies would want to buy credits from biodiverse plantings on Crown Land if they had the opportunity to do so.

There are sound reasons why many companies opt to offset some or all of their emissions despite the absence of a legislated carbon price, creating a so-called 'voluntary market' for carbon credits, he said.

"Smart companies don't go backwards," he said.

"If you've got a good carbon capability now you would at least want to maintain that, and part of maintaining that is to working with groups such as ourselves and our colleagues."

"The voluntary market I think is going to be a good news story," he said. "I think its real opportunity to build a bit of hope and keep our skills up."

Greenfleet was established in 1997 and offsets about 200,000 tonnes of carbon annually through biodiverse native forest plantings carried out in accordance with a Carbon Farming Initiative method.

The offsets are purchased by companies and individuals seeking to voluntarily reduce their emissions.

The former John Brumby-led Victorian Labor Government, which introduced the Climate Change Act, envisaged that the Act's 'carbon rights' regime would help support the establishment of a "Victorian carbon exchange", which would encourage the purchase of offsets by businesses and the general public.

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Related resources:

* 'Conservation Finance: Moving beyond donor funding toward an investor-driven approach', an international publication by Credit Suisse, WWF and McKinsey, is available here.

* The former Brumby Government's 2010 climate change white paper is available here.

* A Corrs 2010 summary of the then Climate Change Bill is available here.
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(Article by Murray Griffin for CE Daily, first published on January 27, 2015)


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