Australia’s 11-year-old carbon credit scheme aims to reward farmers, landholders and other businesses to store carbon in trees, the soil or to use different methods to cut emissions.
For every ton of greenhouse gases stored or prevented, projects registered under Australia’s official $3.4 billion Emissions Reduction Fund receive a carbon credit. The credit is essentially a certificate or permit allowing the holder to emit a ton of greenhouse gas.
Most credits have been bought by the government in Canberra, while a growing number are privately traded by companies wanting to offset their own emissions.
However, new research has uncovered alleged widespread inconsistencies in the system.
The study was undertaken by Australian National University law professor Andrew Macintosh, who was involved in the development of the initial scheme.
He told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that most of the credits do not represent a real or extra carbon abatement.
“What we have got happening at the moment is a collection of things across a range of methods; issuing credits to not clear forests that were never going to be cleared, to issue credits for growing trees that simply are not there, or issuing credits for growing trees that are already there, or in the case of that landfill gas, giving people credits for capturing and combusting methane in circumstances where it would have been done anyway because it is commercially viable to do it,” he said.
Macintosh has called for the entire program to be scrapped and for the process to start again from scratch.
In response, Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator, which runs the initiative, said it would assess the research.
It has, however, insisted the projects it manages are carefully monitored. The regulator rejected assertions in the study that between 70 to 80% of the carbon credits issued were essentially worthless.
Australia’s center-right government pledged last year to deliver net zero emissions by 2050 “in a practical, responsible way…while preserving Australian jobs and generating new opportunities for industries.”
Campaigners, however, have argued that the government’s strong support for the fossil fuel industries is environmentally irresponsible.
Australia has high rates of per capita emissions in large part because of its reliance on coal for much of its electricity generation.