CFI or BF or BAU – decisions to participate

Deciding to participate

In deciding which government program will be more effective in attracting landholders and farming practitioners you have to consider whether it be the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) or the Biodiversity Fund (BF), or some new mechanism yet to be announced.

The later will come or go in the political morass. However, tangible initiatives are in place that could help private landholders hold-on in these difficult times and benefit both greenhouse abatement and encourage biodiversity management.

Which way would you go? Are you as a landholder a change agent? It will matter if you want to participate.

What if you set up a conservation practice, and go beyond business as usual -That is become a change agent? If yes, than it is possible to launch into the programs.

Which program is better suited to who, and why would you buy into either? What is the cost-benefit indicator in either?

Where to launch yourself

Consider this: A carbon credit is a property right that can help farmers, it is measureable and tradable. If the carbon credit unit under the CFI is vaulted and not sold it is possible it could be lost. CFI makes provision for more appealing use of the credit by market mechanism, meaning a more appealing product could produce a greater value for the property for which the credit was produced.   So you need to consider what is the level of government intervention likely, and what would be the triggers for this or any other government to consider the need for intervention.

Next consider the BF. The Biodiversity Fund can compensate farmers for some of the carbon forest establishment expenses, and it can guarantee the forests to be permanent carbon sinks. What BF does is help private landholders add value to the carbon sink and restore their landscape by undertaking biodiverse plantings. Outside our control, risk can occur and one example is bush fires.

But, are the market signals enough, why should I lock up my land to participate in either? I can still be able to plant trees on my private land, there is still a business potential for business as usual for agricultural purposes, and that could satisfy my local social and cultural values, and suit my financial needs. It follows I am happy that I treat my land with respect and its nature rewards me without government programs. Responding to market signals might not preserve what is my reason for being a landholder despite the promises.

If I clearly, believe in the requirement to address emissions abatement and biodiversity to protect, what is causing me this unease?  Do I feel this way, have doubts, because I am concerned about the design of the programs, and the short answer is yes.  It is a particular political party making me feel this way, short answer no.

Design of the programs

What worries me is the design of the programs. Innovators are locked out, policy outputs are aggregated in to boxes, and many ticks in the box are called outcomes. Because of this the ability to influence the approaches to emission abatement and biodiversity management is compromised. Compromise has the potential to disrupt the success of the projects. To the government’s defence they have allocated a research budget under the CFI to study and deliver outcomes for the programs.

Can your feedback enhance the design of these programs? It happens Carbon Innovation (CI) and Carbon Training International (CTi) have been approaching government agencies and designed an CFI Exchange Series to address this problem and give feedback on what affects farmers and landholders – more than just policy outputs we argue.

What are the CI/CTi CFI Exchange series findings?

1. Overlooked in the design of programs: Social and cultural factors have the ability to influence these market approaches to emissions abatement and biodiversity management.

2. Social and cultural factors are the drivers to successful programs.

3. The bother of undertaking the many steps of CFI methodology process (positive/negative lists etc) is time consuming for landowners, and diverts the efforts that could otherwise be productive on the future of their farm businesses.

4. Landholders are having to deal with uncertainties and the risks are more often exaggerated and the opportunities obscure.

5. Awareness sessions labeled Carbon 101, short courses, are done to death.

Dealing with uncertainty

The 100 klm rule is most influential in dealing with uncertainty.

All it takes is a neighbor to say: Sounds a bit risky. You then feel compelled to get more information on what will effect you. The government will argue the information is available on government websites, by third parties authorized by the government. But clearly lacking is an adequate explanation of how, what or where to address the skills and competencies required – that is a no to adequate information.

Outside the 100 klm, the ability of the landholder to influence is much less, as country and soil type, diversity and other factors can affect decisions. For instance a brown soil country has a much different productive capacity to grey alluvial soil. An urban encroachment over rural farmlands will see different attitudes. Enthusiasm to experiment can replace the practicality of historical lessons.

The Exchange series was designed to alleviate the constant fear of carbon schemes being put at risk, and providing information to make it less uncertain for landowners.

Think of it as an insurance of really knowing if the government is here to help you.

On the subject of insurance, good data will help get adequate cover – so I am told! Is that adequate to be an extra incentive for me? Back to you shortly.

References are various and this post mainly forms the seeming factual position to report and is not meant for anyone to rely on financial decision making. It is however, demonstrating the need for more information.