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Carbon Credits On Sale In Australia

Private companies will be able to buy the right to carbon credits from trees growing inside NSW national parks under a radical new deal which conservationists condemn as unacceptable commercialisation of national parks. John Howard reports.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service manages more than 5 million hectares of reserves, including 450,000 hectares of new parks as a result of the North-East Forest Agreement.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the NSW Minister's of the Environment and Forests in an attempt to diversify the core business of State Forests from logging oriented to one which provides "green services."

The memorandum specifically refers to the need for "partnerships and alliances" in the forest and conservation land managment sectors to "assist in the supply side of these markets."

The Kyoto Protocol on global warming envisages an emissions trading regime between countries able to buy and sell emissions credits of equivalent tons of carbon between themselves.

Final agreement on the emissions trading regime is expected to come at the 6th Conference of Parties under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which meets in the Hague in November.

But that hasn't stopped countries and companies establishing emissions trading regimes in preparation for the global scheme.

The NSW memorandum says that in part these conservation areas offer opportunities for long-term investors in carbon sequestration to offset their emissions.

NSW State Forests will market the potential carbon credit scheme with a spokeswoman for the Forests' Minister saying the Government would immediately seek expressions of interest from the private sector.

None of the major environmental groups in NSW was consulted about the memorandum and all were appalled when told of the decision yesterday.

The Nature Conservation Council's executive officer, Ms Kathy Ridge, said secrecy surrounding the deal was unacceptable.

" The Carr Government cannot expect the private sector to buy carbon credits in national parks without compromising the prime objectives to manage those parks for conservation outcomes," she said.

According to Federal Senator, Len Harris, World Bank officials are already in Australia valuing world heritage sites.

When told of the NSW Government's moves, residents of New Zealand's West Coast said the penny has finally dropped over the reason why our Government is so insistent to stop logging trees and now also wants to put more trees into the Department of Conservation estate.

"It doesn't seem to be about logging at all, the Government probably wants to sell the carbon emissions credits from the trees to other countries and multi-national companies, that's why they're locking it up" a straw telephone poll has revealed.

"The sale of carbon emission credits could be worth many hundreds of millions more than the Government is giving the West Coast, respondents said.

In terms of the Kyoto Protocol no agreement has yet been reached on how to establish a baseline that is applicable to all countries, how to measure emissions generation, or how to measure reductions, or how to monitor changes.

Japan is concerned that everything that it needs has to be shipped or flown. It says if the fuel has originated in an OPEC nation but has been transported to and used by another nation, whose emission is it?

The paper and lumber industries are also concerned that if wood products are included in carbon stocks, companies in Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea would have to support Japan.

Land use and forestry, as an emission reduction project, would be projects that reduced or eliminated logging, prevented conversion of a forest to agriculture uses and prevent humans from releasing carbon dioxide from the soil, rubbish waste and the trees themselves.

No-till agriculture and eventually abandonment of agricultural lands through in-perpetuity agreements would change the face of land use.

According to the Argonne National Laboratory report to the US Department of Energy, 1.8 million US jobs would be lost or displaced due to the Kyoto Protocol.

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