On 5th March, the Australian Government announced that the South West of WA has been chosen as one of only six regions to take part in a $23.5 million Carbon + Biodiversity Pilot, encouraging farmers to carry out mixed-species tree planting projects for both climate and ecosystem benefits.
With 55% of Australia’s land used for agriculture, farmers have a unique opportunity to act as environmental stewards, but this can add operational costs. The Pilot, developed under the Australian Government’s wider $34 million Agriculture Stewardship Package, will provide a premium payment for biodiversity improvements delivered through Emissions Reduction Fund carbon farming projects. This premium will be additional to any Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU’s) produced by the project to contribute to Australia’s Emissions Reduction Target.
The Pilot is for biodiverse plantings between 5 and 200 hectares and is being developed by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and the Australian National University. In recognition of consumer demand for sustainable product, the Pilot will also include an associated certification scheme, which will allow consumers to select sustainable farm produce. South West Catchments Council (SWCC), the South West region’s peak natural resource management organisation, will assist with the development of biodiversity protocols to ensure that requirements are suited to the region’s unique environment.
SWCC CEO Sally Wilkinson said: “We applaud this Australian Government initiative that both recognises and rewards the efforts of farmers as environmental stewards. The Pilot compliments much work already being done in Natural Capital Accounting, that seeks to quantify the productivity benefits to landholders from increased biodiversity on farm.
“The South West is a global biodiversity hotspot but many of our local species, as well as the economic and community wellbeing of our region, are threatened due to habitat loss and climate change. It’s vital that we innovate in such a way that both our unique ecosystem and our agricultural industry can flourish.”
James Bowie of Bowie Beef, an angus beef producer farming 1,700 hectares, said: “Farming in the South West region, we continue to modify our practices to build drought resilience in a drying climate. This exciting opportunity supports our efforts to do just that, while also providing us with an opportunity for income diversification. There will be a lot of interest in the Carbon + Biodiversity Pilot.”
If you would like to be notified by the Australian Government on future developments on this Pilot, contact them via email at: [email protected]. More information about the Carbon + Biodiversity program is available here.
If you have any queries, please contact SWCC on 08 9724 2400 or email [email protected].
What do farmers need to do?
- Submit an Expression of Interest to SWCC using the form below. SWCC will keep you updated as new information becomes available and will provide materials to assist with your application.
- Ensure project will meet requirements of Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) Environmental Planting Methodology and the Carbon + Biodiversity pilot documentation (see Requirements for Land below).
- Review planting protocol for South West WA once released (will outline required stem density, species mix, grazing controls etc).
- Submit a Carbon + Biodiversity project application, including either cost estimates (e.g. tubestock or seed, fencing, weeding and pest control) or a bid price. Applications will open on 12 April and close on 11 June.
- If application is successful and proposed biodiversity payment acceptable, sign agreement with Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
- Register ERF project with Clean Energy Regulator, after which 50% of biodiversity payment will be made.
- Undertake project via planting or direct seeding of native tree and shrub species.
- Submit annual reports on performance for first 3 years of project.
- Comply with reporting and auditing requirements of the ERF.
Requirements for Land
- Property must be in the SWCC region – see map here.
- Property must be used predominantly for agriculture.
- Farmer must hold the freehold title for the land on which the project will take place.
- Project must not have begun already (e.g. existing ERF registered projects).
- Project area must be between 5 and 200 hectares.
- Planting must be via blocks or belts of 20 metres or wider.
- Planting must be protected and maintained for a minimum of 25 years.