SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Killing camels to earn carbon credits might seem an extreme way to fight climate change, but the Australian government on Thursday issued detailed rules that will help investors do just that.
Adelaide-based Northwest Carbon, a carbon project developer, has developed the rules, or methodology, governing a strict camel culling program that would also cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Like cows and sheep, camel digestive tracts produce large amounts of methane, a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, with adults producing about a tonne of methane a year.
With no natural predators, camels now number more than one million in Australia's desert center and the population is growing quickly.
The methodology is one of many being developed under the government's Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), the country's first nationally regulated carbon offset program that aims to reward farmers and investors for steps that cut greenhouse gas emissions on the land.
The government, which supports Northwest Carbon's 63-page methodology, released the rules for public consultation on Thursday.
Legislation for the Carbon Farming Initiative is being debated before parliament, and it is likely to be approved. The scheme is far less controversial than a separate carbon pricing program the government is struggling to win support for.
Camels, introduced in the 19th century, have become a major pest in Australia. They trample large areas of vegetation, damage water holes and compete with native species for food.
Camel culling under the methodology could generate up to 18 million carbon credits, with more than 650,000 created per year during the initial three to five years, Northwest Carbon said in a statement on Thursday.
Cutting methane from landfills, better management of grassland burning and tree plantations are also approved methods under the CFI, in addition to feral animal management.
Once the CFI is running, polluters will be able to buy offsets from approved projects or they can be sold overseas. But the scheme is expected to start off slowly until parliament also passes the separate laws that put a national price on carbon emissions.
Agriculture can comprise a large portion of a country's greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, it is about 15 percent, while in New Zealand dairy farming, sheep grazing and other activities generate about half the country's total, mostly methane from livestock. One cow can emit 1.5 tonnes of methane a year.
(Editing by Miral Fahmy)