Former Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath has become a carbon farmer after securing a contract from the Clean Energy Regulator to be paid for growing trees on his sheep and cattle property in north-west NSW.
As the regulator announced it had awarded $557 million to 131 projects with an average abatement price of $12.25 a tonne as part of the second auction from the $2.5 billion Emissions Reduction Fund, the cricketing legend said the contract would supplement income on his 32,400 hectare property, Wancobra,160 kilometres north-west of Bourke.
Mr McGrath bought the property in 1997 – well before he retired from Test cricket in 2007 – and it is now run by his brother and sister-in-law, Dale and Sandy.
“We are always looking for ways to get a different income stream into the property to make it a little more sustainable because it’s pretty tough at the moment. We’ve been in some pretty big droughts since we bought the property,” Mr McGrath said in an interview with The Australian Financial Review.
Mr McGrath and his brother will put aside some of his property to allow mulga trees to regenerate.
“I didn’t know about [carbon farming] until my brother called me about it. He’d heard from neighbours and friends. But we will set aside parts of the property to grow and those trees will take carbon out of the atmosphere and [we’ll] still be able to run our stock,” he said.
Land-use projects such as carbon farming or tree regeneration were the big winners from the second auction, along with savannah burning and coal mine waste, securing 80 per cent of all funding.
The average price of abatement was $12.25 a tonne – lower than the $13.95 achieved by the first auction, when 43 companies were awarded $660 million to eliminate 47 million tonnes of carbon.
While the farming sector has dominated the first two auctions, some of the bigger industry players have made a play at securing some of the taxpayer funding.
This includes Wesfarmers, which has secured funding to change its lighting to LED at its properties around the country. This will deliver a reduction in 104,927 tonnes of carbon.
Other big players include Consolidated Pastoral Company, which is attempting to eradicate 715,000 tonnes of carbon by doing early back-burning on its cattle properties in the Northern Territory, and AGL Energy, which has a string of landfill gas abatement facilities across the country.
Rail haulage company Pacific National will be paid to cut 362,500 tonnes of carbon via a fuel savings program.
The bulk of the abatement from the second auction will be delivered over the next seven to 10 years, with an average of 5 million tonnes to be delivered each year through to 2022.
Climate Friendly chief executive Freddy Sharpe, whose firm is helping develop 48 projects in the latest auction, said the Emissions Reduction Fund was helping “breathe life into marginal land” while also trying to protect the environment.
Melbourne-based consultancy RepuTex director Hugh Grossman said industry was starting to become involved in the auctions, but expected a bigger play in future auctions next year. He said: “It’s a really good outcome and the fund can purchase a good level of abatement. But while the Emissions Reduction Fund is doing well, there is still a net growth in [Australia’s overall] emissions,” he said.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the federal government has secured 92.8 million tonnes of emissions reduction through the fund, which he claimed was 1 per cent of the cost of abatement under the carbon tax.
Clean Energy Regulator chief executive Chloe Munro said the latest auction showed the maturing carbon market in Australia.
“The goal is lowest-price abatement, but we are also balancing that with maximising volume. So it is about getting the most volume we can with the funds available,” Ms Munroe told the Financial Review.
Australian Financial Review
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