SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Australia released rules on Wednesday that would allow farmers and indigenous land owners to earn carbon credits for changing the way they burn-off grasslands, a regular practice in the fire-prone north.
The rules are the first to be released for public consultation for the government's Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), which aims to reward farmers and investors for steps that cut greenhouse gas emissions on the land.
Legislation for the scheme, the first of its type globally, is being debated before parliament and the government is hoping lawmakers will approve it in the next few months.
Curbing emissions from savannah burning is among a number of practices in the legislation eligible to earn carbon credits.
Others include plantations meant to lock-away carbon, steps to reduce emissions from livestock, such as cutting methane produced from burping sheep and cows and their manure, and cutting methane produced in landfills.
According to government figures, savannah burning leads to greenhouse gas emissions of about 12 million tonnes a year in the north of country.
The rules, or methodology, will reward steps that reduce the area of a project that is burned and/or shift the burning to the beginning of the dry season, instead of later when vegetation is much drier.
The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), if passed by parliament, will be the world's first nationally legislated market for carbon credits from farm projects.
Polluters in Australia will be able to buy the offsets or they can be sold overseas. But the scheme is expected to start off slowly until parliament also passes laws that put a national price on carbon emissions and full emissions trading.
An emissions trading scheme would dramatically ramp up demand for CFI credits because it would give big polluters the option of buying offsets to meet their mandatory emissions reductions.
(Reporting by David Fogarty; Editing by Robert Birsel)