06 May, 2013

Guilt Offset

In this week’s blog post, various forms of offsets are discussed. 

It may be useful to consider the parody website which offers offsetting of one's fidelity.

Carbon Offsets

The Australian Government introduced the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) on 1 July 2010. The NCOS provides national consistency and consumer confidence in the voluntary carbon market.

The standard:
·           provides guidance on what is a genuine voluntary carbon emissions offset and
·           sets minimum requirements for calculating, auditing and offsetting the carbon footprint of an organisation, product or event to voluntarily achieve 'carbon neutrality'.

In the lead up to a Federal Election later this year, it is still unclear what the Federal Opposition’s policies are on carbon offsetting and the voluntary carbon market.

Environmental Offsetting

Environmental offsets were established by the former Qld Government to replace environmental values lost through development that supports a rapidly growing economy and population.

In Queensland, environmental offsets were administered under the Queensland Government Environmental Offsets Policy (QGEOP) but it still unclear whether the current Government supports this concept. 

The purpose of the QGEOP was to:
·         provide a foundation of guidelines and principles for the development, operation, monitoring and review of new and existing specific issue offset policies and
·         provide a supporting framework for the management of offsets in Queensland.

Some of the QGEOP appears to have been removed from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection website.

There are a number of other offset policies under the Qld Government Environmental Offsets Policy which can still be accessed via the environmental offsets section.

Vegetation Offsetting

Vegetation management offsets in Queensland, introduced by the previous Qld Government commenced on 1 July 2008 were administered under the Policy for Vegetation Management Offsets.

Proposed reforms to relax Vegetation Management laws have been referred to the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry parliamentary committee but it is still unclear whether the provisions for Vegetation offsetting will be retained or not.

Many of the policies are no longer available on the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Website.

Vegetation Management was a statutory policy that formed part of the broader vegetation management framework designed to regulate the clearing of native vegetation throughout the state.

Prior to the last Qld State election, Campbell Newman promised that the LNP would retain the current level of statutory vegetation protection.  The introduction of amendments to Vegetation Management laws seem contrary to this assertion.

Biodiversity Offsetting

Researchers from the National Environmental Research Program's have been considering the effectiveness and the technicalities of biodiversity offsetting rather than the moral and philosophical issues.

The former Queensland Government had developed the Queensland Biodiversity Offset Policy with the intent to increase the long-term viability of the state’s biodiversity where residual impacts from development on an area possessing state significant biodiversity values cannot be avoided or minimised.

The policy is a specific-issues offset policy under the Queensland Government Environmental Offsets Policy (QGEOP) previously mentioned.

Under the Biodiversity Offset Policy, there were certain development activities that might trigger the requirement for a biodiversity offset.

Many of these triggers are now being removed or reviewed.

The China First Coal Project is entering the last stages of review for its proposed coal mine in Queensland’s Bimblebox Nature Refuge. The proposal suggests protecting about two hectares of remnant bush for every one hectare of the nature refuge that is affected by the mine.

It remains to be seen if the Qld Government will just revoke the protected status of the Bimblebox Nature Reserve or whether biodiversity offsets will be required. 

Questions still remain as to whether or not biodiversity offsetting could balance out the impact developments have on the environment.  These questions may be moot, if the Qld Government removes the requirements for biodiversity offsets.

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