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CRC for Forestry News 11 - Farmers see multiple barriers to tree planting for carbon sequestration

Research by the CRC for Forestry shows many Australian farmers are willing to consider planting trees to sequester carbon, but only if a number of major barriers are overcome.
blue gum plantation

Blue gum plantation

The use of forests as carbon sinks is increasingly recognised as a way to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and while tree planting for the specific purpose of sequestering carbon is relatively new in Australia, it has been the subject of widespread discussion and forms part of both voluntary and mandatory carbon offset trading schemes. Tree planting for carbon sequestration needs to occur on cleared land, and typically requires accessing land currently managed by Australian farmers.  As a result, it requires large numbers of landholders to be convinced to participate to ensure this climate change mitigation strategy can deliver its potential benefits.

The research was supported by Forest and Wood Products Australia* and has explored when and why landholders are interested in planting for carbon sequestration, their perceptions of the costs and benefits of doing so, and identified gaps in the information available to farmers. The research involved surveying landholders in New South Wales, and was undertaken by Dr Lyndall Bull (ANU Visiting Fellow and CRC Board member), and Dr Jacki Schirmer (ANU Research Fellow and leader of the CRC’s Communities research project).

The full results of the study have just been published by  the CRC for Forestry, and are available on our website.

Many of the landholders surveyed had planted trees on their property in the past to provide shade and shelter for stock, improve aesthetics and rehabilitate land. While only 3.5 per cent of surveyed landholders had already planted trees for carbon sequestration, more than 75 per cent are willing to consider it in the future or are already actively considering doing so. However, almost all landholders see multiple barriers to adoption of the practice, and these will need to be dealt with if widespread adoption is to occur.

“At the very least, landholders want a clear market for carbon sequestered in trees, with a viable carbon price; a clear and trusted legislative framework and government policy supporting the activity; and confidence that carbon markets are secure for the long term and that there is little risk of their collapse,” said Dr Bull.

“If these minimum requirements are met, then it is possible to identify the types of landholders that are more and less likely to adopt and, if appropriate, to target outreach to these different groups,” she said.

It’s hoped that the research will be considered by policy makers and groups working to make tree planting for carbon sequestration a viable and broadly-adopted activity.

Seminars presenting the findings have been held in Canberra, Hobart and Melbourne. Additional seminars may be held in Western Australia and Queensland, depending on demand. To register your interest in attending potential future seminars, email with your name and contact phone number.

Full event details and the seminar presentation are available on the CRC for Forestry website.

* Forest and Wood Products Australia sponsors the forestry category of the Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.  This research was undertaken with funds provided by the award, won by Dr Lyndall Bull in 2009.The goal of this study was to identify whether landholders are willing to consider planting trees for carbon sequestration on their land, and the factors influencing their willingness. This information is essential to inform the design of policy intended to provide a supportive framework for this activity, and to inform the design of specific programs or schemes aimed at encouraging landholders to participate.