Rangelands

Updated 18 September 2014

MAIN POINTS:

  • Rangelands is about increasing the carbon stored by managing livestock, feral animals and fire.
  • Approved methods, such as savanna burning and nitrate supplement, may be suitable in rangelands areas for aspects of land management.
  • While overseas rangelands methods have been approved, an Australian rangelands method is still at least 1-2 years away with no planned pathway at present.

Extent of Australian rangelands showing overlap with Indigenous land

THE DETAILS:

Rangelands is about increasing the carbon stored by managing livestock, feral animals and fire. This activity is suitable for the vast semi-arid pastoral rangelands away from the rainy coastal areas.

Aboriginal Carbon Fund was a founding member of the Australian Carbon Rangelands Enterprise (ACRE) which developed a first stage draft methodology in 2013 focusing on reducing livestock pressure. The Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee requested further information on this draft. However, funding for ACRE dried up and the methodology process has now returned to the Department of the Environment.

A workshop of experts was held in Alice Springs in early 2014 but there is no proposal to further develop the methodology at this stage. A principal issue is identifying discernible carbon gains and measuring them accurately and cheaply. This is not easy in a fluky and complex system. In the field, remote sensing work, which could underpin a future methodology, is continuing through the Rangelands NRM Alliance in WA.

It is important to note that other approved methods, such as savanna burning and nitrate supplements, may be suitable in rangelands areas, but a dedicated rangelands methodology is at least 1-2 years away with no planned pathway at present.

Waiting on an Australian rangeland method: will it be done?

Waiting on an Australian rangeland method: will it be done?

THE POTENTIAL:

In successive reports, the CSIRO, Ross Garnaut and ClimateWorks Australia have outlined the potential for rangelands abatement in Australia. The CSIRO indicating that the scale may be as much as 20 million tonnes CO2eq a year for 40 years. The ClimateWorks Australia cost curve was quoted in the Emissions Reduction Fund Green Paper.

OVERSEAS APPROACHES:

The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) has approved several rangelands type methods. The VCS is the leading independent voluntary market standard and was started in 2005.

The sustainable agricultural land management method (VM0021) is about undertaking land management practices that increase the carbon stocks on degraded agricultural land. Project activities could include the use of cover crops and introduction of vegetation. The carbon accounting relies on a Roth-C modelling approach, the same used in FullCAM (which underpins Australia's national accounts). One project in Kenya has received credits under this approach.

The sustainable grassland management method (VM0026) is about adopting sustainable grassland practices on degraded land in semi-arid regions. Project activities could include improving the rotation of grazing, limiting the number of livestock and restoration through planting or appropriate long term management.

A method for grazing land and livestock management, which would apply to beef cattle stations, has been being developed by the American Carbon Registry and is under peer review.

In an interesting approach, Stanford University has produced an incredible carbon map of the whole of Peru at a resolution that could be used for carbon accounting. Is this the way of the future?

RESOURCES:

Eat more meat and save the world: the latest implausible farming miracle, George Monbiot, The Guardian 4 August 2014

Why George Monbiot is wrong: grazing livestock can save the world, L Hunter Lovins, The Guardian 19 August 2014

Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System Ninti One