Human Carbon Credits coming? – Mick Raven
Culling feral buffalo for carbon credits — win-win or a waste?
18th Feb 2023
Can culling feral buffalo in Australia help tackle climate change?
It is a question that has been posed by researchers at Charles Darwin University (CDU) who believe land managers could be incentivised to cull feral bovine if they could earn valuable carbon credits.
“Feral buffalo numbers are increasing across northern Australia, meaning their [methane] emissions are too,” CDU’s Hugh Davies said.
“So the whole idea of our research was that if we can keep their numbers under control we can avoid greenhouse gas emissions, potentially creating carbon credits, which can be sold to make money.”
He said one adult buffalo emitted about 78 kilograms of methane each year “which is the equivalent of over two tonnes of carbon dioxide”.
“If that buffalo wasn’t there that’s potentially two carbon credits generated,” he said.
The idea of culling feral animals for carbon credits is not new.
In 2013 the federal government knocked back a proposal to generate carbon credits from culling feral camels.
Buffalo industry cautious
Tom Dawkins from the NT Buffalo Industry Council said the industry first became aware of CDU’s research after it went public.
He said it was obvious a lot more research would be needed before governments would approve such a methodology, and he called on CDU to focus less on culling buffalo and more on removing them from the environment.
“The language [in this report] seems to be very narrow and specific around culling,” he said.
“We’d argue mustering is better than shooting, not just because you’re getting the dividend of an animal going to a supply chain, but you’re actually removing an animal from the landscape.
“Shoot to waste just leaves a carcass which decomposes, emitting methane in the process, and just creates a feed for feral pigs, which we don’t want either.”
Mr Dawkins also questioned whether large companies would want to purchase carbon credits generated from gunning down animals.
“I can’t see a scenario where the silver bullet solution to buffalo management in the Top End is culling,” he said.
“Even if the carbon price was high I think we have other market forces that will drive the sustainable management of buffalo because [mustering for sale] creates dividends, skills, jobs.
“It opens roads up into remote areas whereas shooting animals from a helicopter doesn’t do any of that.”
More than 10,000 buffalo were exported out of Darwin last year to markets in South-East Asia, while about 6,000 buffalo were processed at the Rum Jungle abattoir south of Darwin.
It is estimated around 200,000 feral buffalo are roaming across northern Australia.
Indigenous communities watching
The Mimal Land Management Aboriginal Corporation, based at Bulman in Central Arnhem Land, has long been involved in the commercial harvesting of feral buffalo.
Each year the organisation removes between 2,500 to 4,000 animals.
“It returns a significant income to the people in this area,” Mimal chief executive Dominic Nicholls said.
The organisation already earns carbon credits through early-season fire abatement projects.
Mr Nicholls said if carbon credits became available for culling buffalo then his organisation would definitely consider the environmental and economic opportunities of getting involved.
“If this [proposal] plays out it could have an important impact across northern Australia,” he said.
“But while we will explore and look at options like this, we’re going to keep doing what’s working — and that’s mustering.”
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