Is Australia’s carbon credit scheme a ‘catastrophe’?

News Excerpt:

Australia’s carbon credit scheme was undermined by damning new research published in the “Nature Communications journal, Earth & Environment”, which found a world-leading reforestation project had been an underperforming “catastrophe”.

About Carbon Credit:

  • In a nutshell, carbon markets are trading systems in which carbon credits are sold and bought. 
  • Companies or individuals can use carbon markets to compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing carbon credits from entities that remove or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • One tradable carbon credit equals one tonne of carbon dioxide or the equivalent amount of a different greenhouse gas reduced, sequestered or avoided. 
  • When a credit is used to reduce, sequester, or avoid emissions, it becomes an offset and is no longer tradable.

Kay takeaways of the research:

  • Vast swathes of land across Australia’s desert Outback have been earmarked for native forest regeneration meant to offset emissions as new trees suck up carbon.
    • But researchers have found that across almost 80% of these plantations, forest growth was either stagnant or that woodlands were shrinking.
  • Australia has set aside almost 42 million hectares under the scheme, an area larger than the landmass of Japan. 
    • Researchers said it was “one of the world’s largest” natural carbon offset projects.
    • Officials claim that since 2013, the native forest spreading across this land has sucked up more than 27 million tonnes of carbon.
    • But the peer-reviewed study, which used satellite imagery to chart forest growth, has cast serious doubt on this figure.
  • Australia had used these projects to bank millions of tonnes in questionable carbon credits, which are used to offset polluting industries.
  • Each tonne of carbon sequestered by these forests is chalked up as a single carbon credit. 
    • These credits are then bought by mining companies, airlines, and other heavily polluting industries to offset their emissions.

Australia’s Emission Statistics:

  • Australia has committed to cutting carbon emissions by 43% by 2030 from 2005 levels, on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions per person are among the highest in the world at 15.3 tonnes, surpassing U.S. levels.
  • Despite its growing vulnerability to climate-linked natural disasters, Australia remains one of the world’s biggest exporters of gas and thermal coal.

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