Farmers in Court for Carbon Credit Compensation

“The Commonwealth [of Australia] has failed in an attempt to have a compensation claim by farmers fighting land clearing regulations dismissed.

“The group known as the Commonwealth Property Protection Association has filed a claim against the Commonwealth for compensation for lost carbon credits because of land clearing restrictions.

“The hearing will resume on July 19…

Read a bit more here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/06/21/1957942.htm

13 Responses to Farmers in Court for Carbon Credit Compensation

  1. Schiller Thurkettle June 24, 2007 at 10:38 am #

    Someone–who was it? Luke, or maybe SJT–explained to me that Australia has a law where nobody actually ‘owns’ land, but merely rents it from the government or something like that.

    So if the landlord changes his mind, you might have to do anything at all, or just move off your land.

    It was something like that. Maybe Luke or SJT can explain.

  2. Helen Mahar June 24, 2007 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi Shiller,
    I have been considering posting an article on this thread, and you have given me the lead in for the information I would have posted.

    Australia has a number of legal land tenure types – they vary between the States. A lot of land in the agricultural areas and especially in urban areas is freehold. Other land is various forms of lease, with varying security.

    A ccommon feature of freehold land and the more secure leases is that if the Crown resumes this land, or part, then compensation is due to the landholder at market rates. So far so good.

    Now for our native vegetation laws. Each state has different laws, but the common features are as follows:

    Each state passes a law placing a legal obligation on landowners to retain their native vegetation. This converts an asset into a liability. No compensation is available for the cost (or foregone income) as the State is not obliged to help its citizens meet their legal obligations.

    It is a very neat method of delivering on public conservation demands without the public having to pay for it. It is called ‘cost shifting’.

  3. Luke June 24, 2007 at 1:44 pm #

    Schiller – Australia has two major private land title systems – freehold – where you own it completely (of course still could get annexed by the State for a freeway or powerlines but not likely) – but essentially you own it, sell it, bequeath it etc.

    http://www.ga.gov.au/education/facts/tenure.htm

    Large remote areas of Australia are leasehold whereby individuals or companies can acquire a lease from the state for many many decades. Typically for pastoral (grazing) activities. Leases have had historically conditions of development. There are also laws, until recently essentially unpoliced, that the landholder should keep the land in good condition and not let it degrade through soil erosion or weed infestation. Essentially the Crown owns leasehold land. Most urban land and rural land close to the cities is freehold. Land is sometimes converted from leasehold to freehold.

    Recent leasehold land review in Queensland
    http://www.nrw.qld.gov.au/blueprint/rurallease/questions_and_answers.html

    Your comment about moving off the land isn’t correct for the vast majority of people. It’s not a totalitarian system. Some would say the landlord is far too lax – some leases are in poor condition – “flogged out” and overgrazed.

    However there are now new laws on both freehold and leasehold land that restrict broadscale tree clearing. These have been supported by both Labor state and conservative Federal government. Their recent introduction has been very divisive as an issue and the history is somewhat complex. In 30 years we’ve gone from having to clear land as part of lease conditions to the opposite.

    The tricky bit is that the Federal government has balanced its Kyoto books through bans on tree clearing brought in by state governments which the Feds claimed credit for??? However the state goverments did the dirty work in legislation and policing.

    There has been not progress with urban and industrial greenhouse emissions and landholders have not been compensated for the carbon in the trees that have been annexed by the States. A high degree of angst by landholders is that they spent years in working groups with the state government trying to devise compromise guidelines that allowed some development but protected endangered ecosystems that had been over-developed. A quick move to ban land clearing disenfranchised all these groups.

    Motty can give you a much more detailed explanation.

    Land tenure maps:

    http://www.nrw.qld.gov.au/slats/images/image010.gif

    http://www.ga.gov.au/education/facts/images/tenure1.gif (white is leasehold)

  4. rog June 24, 2007 at 6:09 pm #

    Even freehold title land use can be restricted by various State instrumentalities, zoning laws can confine activity and various State authorities can seize (acquire) freehold land for their own usage.

    I think that the US is the only country where landholders also own what lies beneath eg minerals and oil.

  5. Schiller Thurkettle June 25, 2007 at 10:03 am #

    Someone should study whether people who “own” the land treat it better than people who don’t.

    I can guess the outcome, but it would be better to have credible numbers.

  6. Helen Mahar June 25, 2007 at 11:46 am #

    You and I both know the answer to that one, Shiller. Further, it would be a pretty safe bet that the numbers would never be collected by any redistributionist – or cost shifting -government. But this is off topic.

    Having State conservation laws that work on free riding, ie Governments not being obliged to assist landholders with the cost of their legally created obligations, I view with some amusement the Commonwealth Government now free riding (appropriating carbon credits) on the free riding States.

    I wish those challenging farmers well.

  7. Helen Mahar June 25, 2007 at 12:36 pm #

    Or is it the pollies delivering to the people of Australia a double free-ride on rural landholders?
    Conservation ‘public good’ + carbon credits?

  8. Ian Mott June 27, 2007 at 2:05 pm #

    The public and the government merely think they are getting a free ride. They seriously believe that they can successfully manage a landscape over the coming century without the goodwill of the landowners. They started with the ignorant view that farmers had no goodwill towards their land and then set about implementing the framework that would make it true.

    The farmer who has observed a weed and a tree seedling competing in his paddock will now kick them both out where he once would have only kicked the weed. Trees were once part of the landscape, some were kept and some, especially the ones that have regrown in the wrong place, were removed. Trees have now been captured by a predatory enemy and hence, trees are also the enemy. No trees, no problems.

    The problem for green dominated governments is that they have also provided farmers with the perfect explanation for why trees that no longer serve the farmers objectives seem to die of entirely natural causes. They actually die because all the little things that farmers used to do to help their trees prevail over the elements no longer get done. But that, too, must be a consequence of global warming.

    And in the long run, the community will get the landscape they deserve, the one they paid for.

  9. Luke June 27, 2007 at 9:01 pm #

    That’s what Ian sits around the cauldron wishing and hoping for. But others have different stories.

  10. Ian Mott June 28, 2007 at 12:34 am #

    No Luke, thats what actual owners of forests say to each other. All the other stories are nothing more than the delusions of those who own no land and own no trees.

  11. Luke June 28, 2007 at 12:42 am #

    Maybe you should get out and talk to a few graziers then? 🙂 You’ve now exceeded your use by date and are part of the problem. Old paradigm, old rhetoric – time to move on.

  12. Helen Mahar June 28, 2007 at 8:18 am #

    Luke,
    The native vegetation laws in my State apply equally to graziers. Luke’s comments, though stronger than I would have expressed, apply also to a significant number of landholders in the lower rainfall areas too. Whether they act on their expressed anger and frustration is another matter.

    It is the philosophical rationale behind Australia’s conservation laws that could do with exposure to wider comparisons.

    In Australia, rural landholders have a raft of statutory created obligations towards native vegetation, soil conservation, riparian protection, biodiversity and natural and human heritage (historical, scientific and aboriginal, FOR WHICH THEY ARE EXPECTED TO PAY.

    At the other extreme, in the EU, conservation on farms is a well supported area of agricultural subsidies. There, rural landholders are considered as providing conservation services to the wider community in soil conservation, biodiversity, clean water, etc, fOR WHICH IT IS REASONABLE THAT THEY BE PAID.

    The USA, I understand, is somewhere in the middle. There, cost shifting conservatin laws which give landholders a strong financial incentive to “shoot, shovel and shut up”, are being replaces with worthwhile financial incentives to preserve rare species, etc. Thus converting a liability into an asset. The result is that a lot of species have wider distribution than thought. It now pays landholders to admit to what is on their land.

    Shiller may be able to provide more information on this.

    But back to the subject. Our governments, though legislation, create statutory obligations, and stick the bill on landholders. Governments can also create tradable property – Co2 credits. Are these credits the property of those who are forced by legislatin to maintain, at their cost, the vegetation providing the carbon sequestration?

    This question should go to law.

  13. Luke June 28, 2007 at 9:13 am #

    Helen

    Very sympathetic with your view and the inherent difficulties. Especially for people of good will such as yourself. CO2 credits should be yours. And laws need to be amended. With the right approach one day that may happen.

    Anyway some of us are seeing landholders interested in developing profitable functioning landscapes that may have a tree component. It appears that reduction in wind may be able to provide similar grass yields while providing a timber resource, and assessable biodiversity dividend with things like avian fauna, and perhaps hydrological benefits in some situations. These landscapes would be functional and not fully natural.

    The evaporation aspect seems to be the key to putting trees back in the landscape. Producers are after research information.

    My petulance with Ian is his total reluctance to develop these discussions anymore – when some of his colleagues seem to want to take up the challenge.

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