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Scientists cite soil as significant -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Coalition may want agriculture excluded from the ETS but the nation's top climate
scientists are calling on the Federal Government to include soil and vegetation in Australia's
emissions trading scheme.

A report released by the Wentworth Group of Scientists says that unless this is done, it will be
"next to impossible" to achieve the emissions cuts needed to avoid the worst effects of climate
change.

The ABC's environment reporter Sarah Clarke has been speaking to Wentworth Group scientist, Peter
Cosier.

PETER COSIER: Well, our analysis shows that if we increase the amount of carbon stored in
vegetation and soils across our landscape, it has the potential not only to make a profound
contribution to meeting our carbon pollution reduction targets but it also presents a unique
opportunity to address a raft of other seemingly intractable environmental problems.

In other words we can use soil and vegetation carbon to help address climate change but we can get
win-win outcomes if we design our institutional structures properly.

SARAH CLARKE: Is that the problem - that there are no institutional structures in place now?

PETER COSIER: Well at this stage we don't have those structures in place because we don't have a
terrestrial carbon market but if we do introduce a CPRS and if the Government does extend the
ability for polluters to offset their pollution by storing carbon in soil and vegetation then we
will create a very large terrestrial carbon market.

SARAH CLARKE: How effective is soil and vegetation? How effective are they in storing carbon?

PETER COSIER: Well the analysis that we have looked at which follows on some work by CSIRO for the
Queensland Government is that if Australia were to capture just 15 per cent of the biophysical
capacity of our landscape to store carbon, you would offset the equivalent of 25 per cent of
Australia's greenhouse gas emissions every year for the next 40 years.

SARAH CLARKE: Are other governments recognising soil and vegetation as an effective way of storing
carbon?

PETER COSIER: Some governments have recognised it. In the United States for example the legislation
going through the United States does recognise soil and vegetation offsets as part of their
legislation but Australia is rather uniquely placed because, because we are relatively small
economy with a large landscape the contribution that terrestrial carbon can make to our carbon
pollution reduction targets is actually far greater relative to other nations.

SARAH CLARKE: What is the market worth then?

PETER COSIER: Well, if we were to achieve, capture 15 per cent of the potential that CSIRO estimate
is possible, we could potentially create a terrestrial carbon market in Australia of between $3
billion and $6 billion per annum as I said, every year for the next 40 years.

The actual market created would depend of course, on the size of the reduction target the
Government commits to.

SARAH CLARKE: How would farmers do this though? Would they have to put land aside to simply use
that soil to store carbon or could they continue farming and producing fruit and vegetables and
their produce?

PETER COSIER: Well, at the moment the CPRS does allow offsets into carbon forestry as it is called,
Kyoto-compliant forestry. If farmers chose to, they would be able to use some of those
opportunities to plant carbon forests or biodiversity plantings if they chose to on parts of their
property and that would give them a new income stream.

Of course there is a risk that if we don't properly regulate the market we could also see large
areas of agricultural land taken out of food production and converted into these carbon forests so
we need a balance but if we get the balance right, the potential benefits to agriculture in terms
of new income streams, the benefits for restoring degraded landscapes and biodiversity conservation
are enormous.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Peter Cosier from the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists speaking to our
environment reporter Sarah Clarke.