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‘The idea is coming of age’: Indigenous Australians take carbon farming to Canada

The Aboriginal Carbon Fund has signed an agreement with Canadian First Nations peoples to share lessons from successful land management program

Australias world-leading Indigenous land management and carbon farming programs are spreading internationally, with a formal agreement signed to help build a similar program in Canada.

A chance meeting between Rowen Foley from the Aboriginal Carbon Fund and a Candian carbon credit businessman at the 2015 Paris climate conference spawned a relationship that led to an agreement this week that will help Canadian First Nations peoples learn from the Australian Aboriginal carbon farming success.

Sometimes chance meetings are a form of karma or synchronicity at play, Foley says.

Foley set up the Aboriginal Carbon Fund in 2010 to help other Indigenous organisations make money by managing land in such a way that it sequesters carbon in the soil.

Cape
Creating a fire break in savannah woodland at Oriners station in Cape York, Queensland. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia

One of the most successful types of Indigenous carbon farming in Australia has been savannah burning, in which regular small fires are lit, replicating ancient Aboriginal practices and helping to prevent larger fires that release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The projects are often managed by workers in the Indigenous ranger program, which a recent government review concluded were enormously effective, increasing employment, building stronger communities and reducing violence, while also increasing income tax and reducing welfare payments.

Sustainable Indigenous land management, such as savannah burning, not only reduces carbon emissions but also builds communities by offering meaningful jobs for local traditional owners as rangers and an independent income, Foley says.

One project run by the Karlantijpa North Kurrawarra Nyura Mala Aboriginal Corporation was awarded a contract for carbon credits under the Australian governments Emissions Reduction Fund. By burning the savannah early in the season, it secured payments for sequestering 24,100 tonnes of carbon, in an auction where the average value for such abatement would have been $257,629.

aerial
An aerial burn on the Oriners and Sefton savannah burning project site. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia

The Aboriginal Carbon Fund works with similar groups to produce carbon credits that can be bought by corporations as carbon offsets.

Now the lessons learned in Australia are set to be taken to Canada, with an agreement between the Aboriginal Carbon Fund and the Canadian First Nations Energy and Mining Council.

It feels like the idea is coming of age, Foley says.

Foley travelled to Vancouver to meet David Porter, the chief executive of the First Nations Energy and Mining Council, to sign the agreement.

Fire
Ranger Nigel Coleman creates a fire break in savannah woodland. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia

It notes the strong similarities between the First Peoples of Canada and the Indigenous people of Australia in relation to land management and climate mitigation.

The parties agree to work together to share information [on] renewable energy and carbon funding models, and to hold cooperative talks, to promote intrinsic cultural values, and to facilitate investment into indigenous lands, the agreement says. More specific joint actions will be developed when the agreement is renewed in six months.

There are similarities between Indigenous land management programs in Queensland and in British Columbia so we have a lot to learn from each other in meeting our shared goals of supporting Aboriginal communities through jobs and enabling investment in the management of Aboriginal lands, Foley says.

His organisation plans to develop an investment fund to make buying and selling of carbon credits developed through Aboriginal land management easier.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jul/23/indigenous-australians-carbon-farming-canada

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