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US climate bill could shift debate on agriculture emissions

- Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Climate Bill that has been passed by the US House of Representatives still has a long way to go before becoming law, although with the Democrats generally supporting the legislation and holding a 59-40 majority in the US Senate, pundits suggest the legislation has a better chance than similar legislation that was proposed almost a decade ago under the Clinton administration.

Irrespective of the fate of the US legislation, the starkly different treatment proposed for US agriculture under the US legislation looks likely to significantly shift the debate here in Australia (and New Zealand) about the treatment of agricultural emissions. That debate shifting has already started, based on reports in The Australian newspaper.

The US legislation exempts the agriculture sector from paying for emissions, meaning that the main role of agriculture under the US legislation is as a provider of offsets, which will be purchased by major polluters. And the US legislation would place the US Department of Agriculture in charge of administering offsets, rather than the US EPA which could be expected to be much less friendly to the farm sector.

US farmers will also have access to a wide range of offset activities, given that the USA has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and is therefore not bound by the euro-centric land sector accounting rules which preclude Australian farmers from any mitigation activities other than planting trees.

 
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