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ARTICLES >> Environment Articles

Capitalise on a ‘Carbon Based Economy’

Posted by Bestprac on Jun 07 2010

Climate Change in Western Australia: Positioning Your Industry to Capitalise on a ‘Carbon Based Economy’
By Jane Garrett



On Monday 10th May at Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort a group of climate change experts gathered to talk to the WA Best Prac members, pastoralists and people from agencies and departments interested in climate change, to look at the feasibility of a new carbon based economy for Western Australia.

With a focus on rangeland farming, the forum reviewed changing weather patterns and the impacts of climate change for the region in the future. Whilst the messages about climate change might be viewed as ‘doom and gloom’ there were bright glimmers of hope for business diversification into carbon sequestration methods that could be adopted by pastoralists to protect their business futures. In addition, the introduction of a new algae biomass creation technology was introduced; a by-product of which is a high protein animal feed that might be fed to livestock in dry times. 



Expertly chaired by Cheryl Cowell, Shire of Shark Bay President, we opened proceedings with our keynote speaker the chief scientist of Western Australia Prof Lyn Beazley. Lyn is an advocate of climate change; it’s happening - our scientists have measured the increase levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere that is not created naturally. Our land and sea temperatures are rising. We can expect increased storm events, what happens if our ocean currents, which drive our climate, stop flowing? Indeed if temperatures rise and bugs grow better, will diseases effectively move south? Dengue fever, for which there is no cure, could be in Carnarvon in 2050 if temperatures continue to rise. Climate change threatens our biodiversity. As temperatures increase, species move but that move can be geographically bounded giving rise to potential extinction. Australia is working to combat climate change by looking into alternative energy sources, researching aquaculture and looking into the sequestration of carbon dioxide. Science and education underpin our ability to combat climate change into the future. 

Ian Foster from Department of Agriculture and Food followed Lyn’s talk, after Vince Catania MP had said a few words about climate change and the region. Ian looked into climate variability and change in the rangelands of WA, giving a range of statistical information showing what we might expect to happen. Of particular interest were the predictions of temperature increases for the future; a 1 degree rise in temperature is predicted by the year 2030 resulting in an increased number of days when the temperature rises above 40 degrees C and increase the effects of heat stress on plants, animals and humans. Rainfall is likely to be more localised and more intense, summer rain will increase, winter rain decrease. Statistical information can be used to model predicted rainfall and help predict the future climate, much of which is available on the Internet and should be used by pastoralists to plan for future changes. Pastoralists may need to look at altering their environment; crops and animals to cope with a hotter, dryer climate and later generations will see the results of the decisions made today.

Key to this event was time for participants to network with each other and the speakers so plenty of time was allocated for breaks. After the first break Peter Nash from Coastal Zone Management gave an overview of the recently released, results of a climate change study risk assessment undertaken with pastoralists in the Shire of a Murchison in 2009 where pastoralism is the dominant industry. The IPCC has created 40 different scenarios on which a model for climate change can be built, this study used the A1F1 model where there is rapid economic growth until 2050 when the population will decline and fuels will still be fossil intensive. The year 1990 is used as a base line. The study showed that days above 35 degrees would double, spring rainfall (planting season) would fall 20-40%, cyclones would be more frequent and severe and there will be greater runoff rainfall. These changes will result in loss of sensitive species of flora and fauna, an increase in pests, and food production will decline. Ecosystems will be threatened. There will be less water for animals creating a higher mortality rate and smaller animals. Working conditions will be harsher. Key to coping with the predicted change is analysis and limitation of risk and adaptation to changed conditions through good management planning. The message was clear that we should assume that climate change is real. Peter noted the following publication for more information: Climate Change Impacts and Risk Management from .

With possibly the worst slot of all (just before lunch when everyone was hungry!), Mark Alchin from the Pastoral, Department of Agriculture and Food, brought the content of the forum around to what other options there are available for pastoralists in the future. His presentation, called “Tapping Your Carbon Well”, covered the fact that since the boom of the 1930’s 30% of the southern rangelands have limited commercial and environmental value and some businesses are still haemorrhaging despite support from the NRM and government. There is a need to look for diversification. Carbon sequestration, through the setting up carbon off-set projects on agricultural land, offers new opportunities in the Voluntary and, in the future the Compliance carbon markets. Carbon trading creates a flow of financial assets from the land to the city and back to the land again. A property must meet a set of criteria to enter the voluntary carbon market. Mark gave three examples from carbon based enterprises on pastoral leases: plantation re-forestation; emission abatement from emissions controlled burning; and regeneration native vegetation and rebuild of soil carbon. Full statistics on the revenue generated from each example can be found in the downloadable presentation at or from the Events page of With the carbon market still uncertain and the price of carbon relatively low, there is a need to set up further trial collaborative projects.

Helen Scott, of CO2 Algae and sponsor of the cruise and BBQ, followed an excellent lunch, with her presentation “Mitigate Greenhouse Emissions and Produce Food for your Livestock”. The world is entering an era where several factors are aligned to promote the use of algae as a viable alternative for the dual purpose of mitigation of greenhouse emissions and the production of next generation of feedstock for sustainable farming. Helen, in conjunction with the technical man from the business, Brain Ruddell, presented the results of a joint demonstration programme with Shire of Perenjori to help the Perenjori farming community become more resilient against drought by cultivating algae on marginal land utilising poor quality water. Needing only sunlight and low grade water regional algae, which has been shown to be remarkably resilient, grows in channels of flowing water in ponds. The resulting biomass can be used as a high protein animal feedstock; Aquaculture feed stock and Soil improver (fertiliser, mulch). A pond, such as the one shown in the photo below, has the potential to yield: 0.5g of biomass per litre per day which equates to 138 tonnes per hectare of pond area, per annum; in comparison to a traditional rich pasture which creates 2.25 tonnes per hectare per annum. Installation of algae ponds provides an alternative food source as well as another opportunity to sequester carbon.

Our last presenter for the day was Charles Crouch from DEC Office of Climate Change with “Breathing Underwater: Climate Change Mitigation Policy and WA Land Use”. The presentation looked at the impact of climate change mitigation policy on agriculture and other land use and examined the predicted impacts of climate change in WA using the latest information from the DEC supported Indian Ocean Climate Change Initiative. Climate change sceptics had a hard time at this event; Charles began with some information about out changing climate and notably said, IPCC found there is a “90% chance global warming is due to human activities”. In order to mitigate change there needs to be general agreement that 60-80% cuts are required by mid century to hold warming to “acceptable risk of 2-3 degree warming range”. Charles then showed charts that we had seen earlier in the day of what the temperature rise across Australia might be if steps are not taken to mitigate CO2 emissions and perhaps there is cause for concern as the CPRS (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) is now deferred until 2013. Creators of carbon based pollution will be issued permits that can be traded or auctioned and as time goes on fewer permits will be made available. A the moment it is not possible to be sure what the future will look like under CPRS, and, in fact, should the government change there may be a different policy as the opposition and the green party have alternative schemes. Many companies, such as the major airlines, are buying permits on the voluntary carbon market for reputation reasons and there is opportunity for the agricultural industry to sequester carbon but consideration must be given to liabilities such as reducing animal feed sources and maintenance of the carbon sinks. Until firm decisions are made for CPRS we are working with models to project the future. If agriculture is covered permits will likely be required to cover animal emissions. If not agricultural costs will increase according to increases in other industries such as the increased cost of electricity; we will find out in 2013 assuming CPRS is not delayed any further.

In speaker question time there was clear interest from the WA BestPrac group in going forward on a controlled carbon credit trading project; such as setting up a 10 hectares land regeneration project. Set up capital is an issue but loans may be available from the bank if the numbers ‘stack up’, we were fortunate to have 2 members from Rabobank present. This was preferred to changing current grazing practices and implementing rotational grazing, for example. The cost for setting up algae ponds were requested, it was estimated that set up costs at Perenjori were about $40k but this will be verified and a cost sheet produced and made available by CO2 Algae. At the end of question time each of our speakers was presented by Cheryl Cowell with a book donated by World Heritage entitled “Shark Bay Twin Bays on the Edge” by Carolyn Thomson-Dans.




At 4:15pm everyone met on Monkey Mia Jetty for a sundown cruise aboard Aristocat 2 kindly sponsored by Co2 Algae, a very special treat for those who came from inland zones. Our longest travelling attendee had come from Alice Springs who had not seen the sea in a very long time! The day was wrapped up with a BBQ, again kindly sponsored by CO2 Algae with more time to network in a relaxed environment. The day was followed by a workshop on practical methods of coping with climate change which generated such lively discussion that it finished incomplete and will be followed through with another workshop event in spring.

Feedback from the event has been incredibly positive and may lead to collaboration between the WA Best Prac members which may result in funded projects on combating climate change in rangeland WA.

On the evening preceding the forum the Shire of Shark Bay had kindly provided a personal tour of the Shark Bay Discovery Centre for the speakers and Phil Thompson, the manager of the centre provided the commentary.

The forum was sponsored by CO2 Algae, World Heritage, Shire of Shark Bay, Department of the Environment and Conservation and Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort. Presentations can be downloaded from the Events Page of and







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