Australian Company Will Kill Camels for Cash, Carbon Credits


Photo credit: Harclade via Flickr/CC BY

As you've likely heard, Australia is en route to pass legislation ensuring that its largest polluters pay for their carbon emissions. The new law will allow companies to reduce at least part of their emissions by buying carbon credits that sponsor projects proven to reduce greenhouse gase generation. And enterprising companies are already stepping up to the plate with ideas on how to turn a profit reducing emissions -- like, for instance, Northwest Carbon. The company has already submitted a proposal detailing its plans to offer carbon credits for slaughtering millions of methane-emitting feral camels.

Northwest Carbon thinks that farmers and hunters who help rid the nation of its feral camel population should be compensated with carbon credits. Australia does indeed have a major feral camel problem -- the invasive species is crowding out native ones, trampling vegetation, and rapidly reproducing. But proposing that killing them be redeemable for carbon credits is certain to be controversial.

Australia's 9 News reports:

Private company Northwest Carbon has put forward a proposal that could result in farmers and others paid for culling camels on their land and selling offsets under the federal government's carbon farming initiative (CFI) ... Northwest has developed a methodology for determining the extent of the reduction.

"Camels like cattle do in fact produce methane as part of their digestive processes," [Department official Shayleen Thompson] told a Senate estimates hearing on Monday. "The idea is that one can take action to reduce camel populations off a set baseline and hence create carbon credits as a result of that activity which does benefit the atmosphere."

When a similar proposal was floated months ago, Mat remarked that the prospect was pretty asinine. And indeed, as a carbon reduction scheme, it seems a shoddy, short-term-only operation. Mat points out that a more powerful scheme to reduce methane emissions would be to address livestock production, not kill a finite population of wild camels.

The whole proposal could be construed as a company trying to make an easy buck off of a project that needs to be addressed anyways. Then again, it could be argued that the project is killing two birds with one stone: Instead of using government funds to police an out-of-control camel population, it's employing (or rewarding) hunters and farmers to do so themselves. And yes, it's reducing greenhouse gas emissions, too.

It's also raising the profile of the carbon offsets law, and promoting its flexibility. By displaying one of the many ways to reduce carbon emissions, it could engage a segment of the Australian public that might not have been on board, and inspire further creative thinking on carbon reduction projects. It could also lead folks to believe the whole endeavor is kind of absurd. You get the point: it's a totally grey area, and it reveals the mess of ambiguity that surrounds carbon offset projects and policies.

Needless to say, I'm eager to hear everyone's reactions to this one ...

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