3rd National Carbon Farming Industry Forum

3rd National Carbon Farming Industry Forum

I’m not sure whether it was predictive thinking or just good luck that prompted the Institute to host this year’s forum on the Sunshine Coast.

But you could not have chosen a more appropriate location.

Just last month, Minister Enoch and I announced an Australian first blue carbon initiative here on the Sunshine Coast.

So, the forum is well placed to base itself here this year.

But given the nature of that announcement, I think it would be fair to say that Queensland – and our Sunshine Coast in particular – is well placed to capture a global leadership position in blue carbon and carbon farming.

Being an Australian first or an Australian leader is something we are becoming a little bit used to on the Sunshine Coast.

After all, our Council is the first government in mainland Australia that has managed to offset 100% of its entire electricity consumption with energy from a renewable source – from our solar farm at Valdora.

In fact, the results last week indicate we are offsetting around 109% of our total electricity consumption.

And the Sunshine Coast is the only location in the southern hemisphere that has been named as one of the seven Global Intelligent communities, by the Global Intelligent Communities Forum.

We are also the first location in Australia to be introducing an underground pneumatic waste automated collection system into an city environment – at our new city centre in Maroochydore.

And we are the only local government in Australia that has secured investment in an international broadband submarine cable that will come ashore later this year and be in service by mid-2020.

Providing the fastest data and telecommunications connectivity from the eastern seaboard of Australia to Asia.

So, to my mind, it is only appropriate that we look to position this region and Queensland, as a national – if not global – leader in blue carbon and carbon farming.

That is the essence of what you will be considering over the course of the next two days – and as I said a few moments ago, you are in exactly the right place to be having those discussions.

What I find impressive is that the format for this event brings together all of the major stakeholders across the land-sector carbon credit supply chain to focus on emerging blue carbon opportunities.

This includes the Traditional Owners, the key agriculture sector participants, landholders, carbon project developers, financiers and domestic high emitters.

The best way in which to devise a clear plan that is both achievable and aspirational is to have all the key stakeholders at the table from the outset.

Our Council did that with our Economic Development Strategy and our Environment and Liveability Strategy – and we are doing it again now with the development of our new Community Strategy.

I understand your forums in 2017 and 2018 worked to define the opportunity to scale up land sector carbon farming in Australia by developing a Carbon Farming Industry Roadmap.

I am encouraged that the purpose of the next two days is to devote your energies to how to bring the Roadmap to life.

And that as part of your deliberations, you will be looking to develop an action plan for key market development areas to support the progression of blue carbon opportunities – which will include consideration of national and international market developments.

What is intrinsically important is the involvement of the Traditional Owners in any land-based strategy for blue carbon.

Our Traditional Owners have known, worked with, cared for and lived in harmony with the landscape and waterways for tens of thousands of years.

From generation to generation, they have developed a deep, intuitive understanding of what we would call “environmental considerations”.

How the seasons, weather patterns and tidal flows impact on the land and the riverine areas.

How flora, fauna, humans and the natural environment work with each other – and how they can pose a threat to each other.

The insights of our Traditional Owners are important as you consider the opportunities for blue carbon farming and I am pleased to see that you are dedicating time specifically to that purpose over the next two days.

As many people in this room know, blue carbon in the plants and soils of wetlands and coastal areas presents as a key land restoration opportunity.

And one where Queensland has an advantage, thanks to our extensive coastline with its natural ability to store carbon.

With increased levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, our coastal ecosystems can be used to store carbon for many years.

And running in parallel with this environmental opportunity is a very real economic opportunity.

Where land management activities can generate carbon credits through avoiding the release of greenhouse gases or increasing the carbon stored in the land.

Whether this is through planting trees, protecting native forest by reducing land clearing, managing bushfires through savannah burning, re-instating coastal ecosystems and changing farming practices to increase soil carbon.

Increasingly, as the global economy shifts towards a cleaner future, emitters are looking for new and secure supplies of carbon credits to offset their carbon impact.

This presents as a very real economic opportunity for Queensland to use its large land mass to supply high quality carbon credits for national and global markets.

Our state’s emerging carbon farming industry could contribute up to $8 billion to the economy by 2030.

And in doing so, it will be helping to generate new jobs, revenue streams and market opportunities, especially for regional, rural and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

We have recognised this here on the Sunshine Coast, through what we have defined as our Blue Heart initiative.

This fantastic and innovative project – developed by our Council staff and being delivered as a partnership with the Queensland Government and our water utility, Unitywater – is an important part of our approach to supporting climate resilience on the Sunshine Coast.

The Blue Heart is an area of more than 5,000 hectares within the Maroochy River Catchment.

Everyone who has ever lived here – from the peoples of the Kabi Kabi First Nation to the landowners today – knows that this area has significant environmental and natural flood plain characteristics.

It’s an area where responsible land and water management will showcase – and deliver – exemplary environmental, social and economic outcomes.

Shaped like a heart – hence is name – the Blue Heart is subject to periodic flooding and acts as a critical flood storage.

It also provides natural protection from the impacts of flooding in the Maroochy River Catchment.

The area is becoming increasingly susceptible to incremental tidal inundations.

By 2100, under future climate conditions, it is projected that much of the area will be permanently inundated.

This is the first time a local council, a state government and a water utility have come together to protect and enhance a dedicated area for conservation, for flood mitigation and for recreation purposes.

Between Council, the State Government and Unitywater, we already own approximately 1,200 hectares of land in this area.

By working closely with other landowners on focused land and water management options, we will set the trajectory for a wider blue carbon initiative and the future adaptation and resilience of our region.

Working with the Department of Environment and Science, we want to encourage research into carbon farming and blue carbon solutions which landholders may choose to adopt.

We will also be working with landowners and communities to encourage the adoption of new land management practices that build future economic and environmental resilience, while retaining a focus on flood hazard management.

This blue carbon initiative is yet another demonstration of our council’s vision of the Sunshine Coast as Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative.

In fact, it combines all of these attributes beautifully.

And I make the point, this is just one of a plethora of real actions that our Sunshine Coast Council is taking to proactively respond and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

From the development of our coastal hazard adaptation strategy.

The incorporation of sea level rise factors into our planning scheme.

Expanding our conservation estate so that it is the largest in south east Queensland.

And as I mentioned earlier, becoming the first government on mainland Australia to offset 100% of its electricity consumption with renewable energy.

We’re investing… making decisions…and taking real action now.

I hope while you are here, you get the opportunity to go out to the area that we call our Blue Heart and witness for yourself, the blue carbon farming opportunities that it could provide.

Ladies and gentlemen, we know the world’s climate is changing and it is up to us to be leaders in the regeneration and repair of our ecosystems.

Carbon farming pulls together the different pieces of regenerated agriculture and puts them into a holistic system that can work together.

Our unique coastal landscape places the Sunshine Coast and a fair portion of Queensland in the box seat when it comes to activating the carbon farming industry.

I am sure you will consider many of these factors over the course of this forum.

Thank you once again for choosing the Sunshine Coast for your event this year.

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