Landmark WA decision to allow carbon farming on pastoral lands

Analysing core samples. Image: Department of Environment and Energy

The WA Government will back carbon farming on pastoral leases for the first time in the state’s history, allowing pastoralists to build resilience to climate change and improve pastoral productivity.

The decision follows the State Government’s previous in-principle support for Human Induced Regeneration (HIR) carbon farming, which led to the registration of 43 projects through the national Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).

HIR projects support the regeneration of native vegetation through managing cattle grazing, which sequesters carbon and allows pastoralists to earn carbon credits.

The 43 carbon farming projects have contracted more than five million tonnes of carbon abatement via the Commonwealth Emissions Reduction Fund, which will provide approximately $70 million to pastoralists.

A further 15 million tonnes are expected to be sold directly to major greenhouse gas emitters who need to purchase carbon offsets. 

The Minister for Lands has been given authority to provide state eligible interest holder consent to individual projects that meet the approved assessment requirements.

The decision follows extensive consultation with the mining industry, pastoralists and Aboriginal representative bodies.

Final consent from the State Government will be subject to measures aimed at enabling the growth of the carbon farming industry, promoting co-existence with the mining and resource sector and protecting native title rights and interests, including:

  • A rolling five-year review of HIR carbon farming implementation, with input from stakeholders;
  • Pastoralist must demonstrate engagement with registered native title body corporates;
  • Mining leases, State Agreement areas and pending mining/general purpose/miscellaneous licences to be excluded from carbon project areas;
  • State Government to compensate for loss of carbon production as a result of low impact mining/exploration activities;
  • Department of Water and Environmental Regulation to develop guidance addressing Native Vegetation Clearing Permits in carbon estimations areas. 

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said, “Not only does this decision support the State’s efforts to fight climate change, Human-Induced Regeneration carbon farming means our state’s pastoralists can access a new revenue stream while rehabilitating degraded pastoral lands.

“Prior to the McGowan Government’s support for carbon farming, WA had been contracted just four per cent of the Federal Government’s $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction fund – compared to Queensland, which has received 43 per cent to date.

“This decision today allows more than $70 million to flow to our State’s pastoralists for carbon abatement credits, and we expect funding from industry and government will be available for future projects.

“These projects, focused in the Southern Rangelands where the potential for regrowth and suitable vegetation exists, help to build resilience on our pastoral estate and can be a game-changer for individual pastoralists.

“Our government has worked hard to deliver this outcome for our State and our pastoral sector, marking the first time the carbon farming has been allowed on pastoral lands.”