Vegetation regrowth projects may have been compensated for forest that already existed, has not yet grown back or may never go back.
In response to an independent review of rules overseeing forest regrowth and vegetation regeneration projects in the Morrison Government’s climate solution fund, Australian Conservation Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Kelly O’Shanassy, said:
“The concerns highlighted by this review aren’t minor technical issues. Vegetation regeneration projects account for half the promised pollution cuts under the Morrison Government’s marquee climate change program.
“It’s further evidence the Morrison Government’s climate plan is riddled with holes and cannot be relied upon to do the heavy lifting to cut Australia’s growing climate pollution.
“The review findings suggest projects under which vegetation is allowed to grow back from past clearing and grazing may have been compensated for forest that already existed, has not yet grown back or may never go back.
“It is disturbing the committee found half the projects it reviewed did not yet contain any woody vegetation, while only a quarter had vegetation growing at the rate expected.
“ACF’s rough estimates suggest $120 million of public money has already been given to revegetation projects, and a further $950 million is contracted under the climate solutions fund through these methods.
“We recognise the Clean Energy Regulator has made changes to fix these issues, and further rule changes are proposed. And we recognise many firms and landowners operate ethically, despite the serious concerns highlighted here.
“But to date we’ve seen numerous problems arise with the climate solutions fund, including the over-crediting of vegetation projects, funding for projects that would have gone ahead anyway, and millions of dollars splashed on big corporations to burn more fossil fuels.
“There is a significant question about just how much of the Morrison Government’s claimed pollution cuts under the climate solutions fund are actually real.
“There is a role for programs like the climate solutions fund or carbon farming initiative to encourage landowners to cut pollution, plant forests and restore landscapes, including through the genuine regeneration of vegetation.
“But these programs are not a replacement for serious climate change policies like trading schemes, caps and regulation. Five years of growing Australian climate pollution is testament to that.”