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Minister rejects carbon credit criticism

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Energy Minister Angus Taylor says carbon farming changes will help safeguard regional communities. Photo: Getty
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Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has rejected claims Australia’s $1 billion carbon credit scheme is a sham and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The Clean Energy Regulator is reviewing claims by the former head of the government’s Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee, Professor Andrew Macintosh and his colleagues from the Australian National University that the fund is an “environmental and taxpayer fraud”.

Speaking at a carbon farming forum on Friday, Mr Taylor said the criticisms were part of a political attack on the industry.

“I believe these criticisms are completely unfounded,” he said.

He said the Clean Energy Regulator and Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee had already looked into a first round of claims made by Professor Macintosh and lobby groups last year, and found they didn’t stand up.

Prof Macintosh found serious integrity issues with the major methods approved by the government to create carbon credits.

Clean Energy Regulator chair David Parker has said that while the claims are being reviewed, Australians can have confidence in the fund because of its checks and balances.

Opposition climate and energy spokesman Chris Bowen also addressed the conference and said the allegations were concerning.

“It’s not to say I accept them at face value, it is to say they warrant further scrutiny,” he said.

Responding to Mr Taylor’s comments, Prof McIntosh said he and his colleagues were not politically motivated.

“We are motivated solely by the desire to have an efficient and effective offset market,” he said in a statement to AAP.

Mr Taylor also confirmed that from Friday the agriculture minister would have a veto power over the carbon farming projects that were part of the emissions reduction fund.

It means native forest regeneration projects will be able to be stopped if they have a negative impact on agriculture or regional communities.

The rules will apply to native forest regeneration projects that cover more than 15 hectares and more than one-third of a farm.

Mr Taylor said the changes would help safeguard regional communities.

“As the emissions reduction fund continues to grow, it’s important that we get the balance right between managing land, storing carbon and ensuring the (fund) has a positive impact on agricultural production,” he said.

Under the changes, regeneration projects will also be required to report their compliance with other government requirements to manage pests and weeds.

More than $2 billion has been set aside for carbon farming projects in regional areas.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said it was important carbon farming projects did not adversely affect regional areas.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen instead in some cases are projects that negatively impact the neighbours and towns,” he said.

– AAP