Currently there are 25 carbon farming projects running in some of the most far-flung corners of the Territory, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars for Indigenous rangers.
The “cool burning” process helps mitigate problem wildfires, which contribute to 40 per cent of the Territory’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
By reducing carbon emissions, the ranger groups and land holders earn carbon credits, creating business enterprises in struggling communities.
Today the Northern Territory Government announced a framework to expand and grow the industry, which has been running since the early 2000s.
“[The strategy] makes recommendations about how we should train and bring people into the industry,” Matthew Salmon from the Northern Land Council said.
“[It also] recommends work about clarifying the ownership of carbon rights in some places.
“And importantly has a coherent, set-out framework for communicating the importance [of] this work to the general public.”
The Aboriginal Carbon Industry Strategy aims to provide advice and support to Aboriginal land holders and ranger groups who want to create business enterprises by offsetting emissions and promote the Territory’s carbon burning industry to private investors.
And these secondary markets are lucrative because they offer a potential to package a range of offsets by identifying associated social, cultural and environment benefits that flow from carbon industry projects on Aboriginal Land.
The strategy will be responsible for commissioning research into secondary markets as well as establishing channels for local projects to access them.
Gas companies INPEX and ConocoPhillips both utilise rangers in the Northern Territory to reduce their carbon footprint
‘Hundreds of meaningful jobs’
In 2016, projects in Arnhem Land produced over 800,000 tonnes of carbon abatement.
It is also a significant employer, with thousands of hectares of land needing to be managed.
“The carbon industry has created hundreds of meaningful jobs in some of the most remote parts of the Territory,” said NT Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Eva Lawler.
“It has also generated significant social and cultural benefits through providing opportunities for Aboriginal people to live and care for their traditional lands.”
Although there are clear benefits of carbon farming, the industry faces challenges as it looks to mature.
The new strategic team will work through the poor understanding of the industry and its benefits as well as the lack of certainty for the industry due to scepticism about climate change.
And it will work with the Commonwealth, which is responsible for the industry’s regulatory framework, to clarify the legal right to conduct carbon burning projects on land subject to Native Title.
Territory Labor said it has already paid $500,000 towards developing the new strategy and has budgeted a further $500,000 in the 2018/19 financial year.
It said it has not ruled out future funding and it will be looking at how the carbon burning industry expands when determining the next instalment.
It is hoped the new strategy will bring global private investment into the Territory, as companies look at ways to offset greenhouse gas emissions from their businesses.