A review of Australia’s controversial carbon credit system has recommended significant changes to how it is managed, but rejected claims that the scheme lacks integrity and is not delivering real cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
The report released on Monday denied detailed allegations by a team of academics led by Andrew Macintosh, a professor who previously worked with the Emissions Reduction Fund, that failures in the system mean more than 70% of carbon credits approved might fail to offer genuine abatement of greenhouse gas emissions.
The panel said it did not share the view that the integrity of the scheme was in doubt, that the level of emissions reduction had been overstated, or that the carbon credits policy was not effective.
In a press conference on Monday, Ian Chubb, the former national chief scientist, said the scheme was “not as broken as has been suggested.” It was a “human-designed process, implemented by human beings, and it will be a bit frayed at the edges,” he said, but the system was “basically sound” with safeguards in place.
The Chubb review has backed most of the methodologies, with some changes suggested to the avoided deforestation method that had been criticised, which rewards landowners for protecting forest they could have bulldozed.
It said the existing method should no longer be used as the length of time since land-clearing permits had been issued for western New South Wales imply that it would be hard to establish intent to clear land, raising questions about the additionality of any new projects that might be registered under the current method.
The panel did not find major fault with the most common method used to create credits, which rewards regrowing native forests in cleared outback areas. Landholders using this method, known as “human-induced regeneration,” have signed contracts with the federal government worth an estimated A$1.5bn.
The review also recommended taking some powers off the Clean Energy Regulator to improve confidence in the scheme. It suggested the regulator keep responsibility for compliance and enforcement while a skills-based board that is more independent of the government be set up to oversee approval and integrity.
The panel suggested the government make more data about carbon credit projects transparent and consider cancelling a percentage of all credits to improve confidence that the cuts being rewarded were “appropriately conservative.”