Australia is being heralded as coming up with an alternative way to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions via paying indigenous Australians to practice traditional fire management practices. (Controlled burn-offs at particular locations and times of year, which then prevent out of control late-season fires.)
Traditional Owners from West Arnhem have agreed to generate 100,000 tonnes of carbon credits annually through traditional fire management employing Indigenous Rangers, to offset greenhouse gas emissions from ConocoPhillips' liquefied natural gas plant in Darwin Harbour.
For its part, ConocoPhillips agreed to pay A$1 million per year into the project over 17 years. The offsets will be recognised under the proposed Australian Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
Building on the WALFA pilot, the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) has raised $7.8 million from the Australian government towards $30 million required to develop and administer four additional projects using Indigenous land managers with the goal of creating over 1 million tonnes of carbon credits annually.
According to UN under-secretary general Konrad Osterwalder:
"This experience is the best example in the world of indigenous and local communities using the emerging carbon market to develop culturally appropriate livelihoods. The lessons learnt from this experience are invaluable, especially now that there are billions of dollars available to local communities worldwide to help them take climate change mitigation and adaptation measures."
Im somewhat speechless. How does this even work as an offset? Why are we paying people millions of dollars to do a sensible thing that they have always done, and then say its a carbon credit, because if they didn't do what they had always done then there would be more fire, so by making fire, they are reducing it. Im sorry, what?
At the risk of sounding like my grandfather, if something isn't sustainably producing an income, then it ain't a good investment. Wheres the actual income production here? This is trading in make-believe. Traditional fire management was done for a variety of reasons, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't to offset white-fella carbon emissions. If you don't follow through on the action, it negates the purpose of doing it in the first place.
Wouldn't it be better to let indigenous people "develop culturally appropriate livelihoods" by giving them their land and letting them actually use it? Maybe then they could continue traditional practices alongside a shiny new $30 million fish farm, fruit tree plantation or even, stay with me on this, a shiny new liquid gas plant of their own.
As opposed to this bullshit, which seems to be some feel-good, white-fella circle jerk. Even the department of environment notes that:
Ultimately burning gave people control of the landscape, whereby they would not be surprised by unplanned fire and could do particular burning activities as a matter of choice. They were in charge and burning probably came to symbolise being in control.
Wheres the choice here? Wheres the control? This is turning aboriginality into an industry for, well, industry.
For a recent article on a related subject, Noel Pearson has alot to say on the topic here.