News | 24th Jul, 2013

Science slams Coalition soil carbon plan

24 July 2013
Kate Dowler and Rob Harris
The Coalition is standing by its Direct Action policy on carbon despite another report questioning its science and feasibility.

A study says the latest science indicates storing carbon in Australia soils will not be a quick fix as promoted by the Coalition and the Federal Government's carbon farming scheme.

According to University of Melbourne researchers, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions by increasing carbon storage in Australian agricultural soils was "not likely to be effective".

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham, said the Coalition's planned Emissions Reduction Fund, as part of its Direct Action Plan, would not be prescriptive regarding how emissions should be reduced, but would support efficient and verifiable emissions reduction and carbon abatement projects.

"Last year's CSIRO report confirmed the potential for carbon farming to reduce emissions and suggested an even greater ability to use this mechanism than the Coalition had incorporated in our own policy," he said.

"The Coalition believes that replenishment of soil carbons can make an important contribution towards reducing Australia's emissions… as presumably does the Government given last week's announcement – as part of the transition to a floating carbon tax 12 months earlier than planned – that Australian businesses will have greater scope to use Australian carbon permits and credits generated under the Carbon Farming Initiative to meet their liabilities." 

Senator Birmingham said under Coalition plans the market would ultimately determine what emissions reduction and carbon abatement activities were funded. 

A Melbourne School of Land and Environment research team analysed 56 papers to understand the effects of agricultural management practices on soil carbon sequestration in Australia.

Study author Prof. Rick Roush, Dean of the Melbourne School of Land and Environment, said the potential for increased carbon storage in Australian agricultural soils was "very limited".

"Our analysis showed that these strategies would result in only 53.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent sequestered in soil and would therefore not meet the 85 million tonnes targeted in the Coalition's Direct Action Plan," Prof. Roush said.
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