Your Grandchildren: Why the world needs soil carbon trading

Monday, October 17, 2011
“Without your efforts Australia would have no Carbon Farming Initiative and no network of amazing farmers. In no small way you will leave a legacy of nationwide land regeneration at precisely the time we, and the rest of the world, needs it. “ - John W Crawford, Judith and David Coffey Chair in Sustainable Agriculture, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Sydney

The reason why we have racked up private debts of more than $500k campaigning for the last 6 years “to see the day soil carbon is traded safely and farmers paid fairly for what they sequester’’ is simply this: the prospect of a financial return from carbon farming will be enough to capture the attention of the great majority of farmers - who currently are not available to the sustainability message - for long enough for them to consider land management practice change. If they decide against it at least they have given it a fair hearing (and prepared themselves for the inevitable conversion somewhere down the line). We are promoters of trade for three reasons; 1. we believe only rapid and widespread soil sequestration has the capacity to stall global warming long enough for the global community to transition to a low carbon energy system; 2. we have a soils crisis that must be addressed for food security reasons; and 3. the profit motive is more influential and widespread in its application and rapid in its effect in changing behaviour than education and encouragement, ie. business as usual. 

We live by the principle that, if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got. The single-minded focus on soil carbon as a key performance indicator simplifies the communications and behaviour change tasks because the co-benefits inevitably follow on attempts to raise soil carbon levels (co-benefits include improved soil structure, ground cover, water efficiency, nutrient availability, buffering against drought, and biodiversity above and below the ground). Once the average farmer gets over their negativity about soil carbon and trading (the result of the relentless misinformation campaign by those who fear being made redundant by the privatisation of soil health management when the opposite will be the effect) CMAs and Landcare groups will have their work cut out for them handling the rate of enquiries. As for middlemen, every commodity market has them, they are essential, and farmers can select which program they go with. Ie. it will be competitive. As for merchant bankers making money, that can only occur if the units are on-traded by the buyer. Farmers can choose to sell only to buyers who will 'retire' them, thereby removing them from circulation. If merchant bankers are making money, it is a sign that the market is flourishing and farm landscapes are being restored at a rapid rate. 

It will not be a gold rush, as some predict. It will take at least 5 years to develop and bed down the processes required to protect the farmers' interests. That is where Carbon Farmers of Australia fits in: Advocacy, Representation, and Ethical Aggregation.


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