Australia to review carbon offsets following 'fraud' allegations

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Australia’s Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen speaks at Carbon Market Institute symposium in Melbourne, Australia July 1, 2022. REUTERS/Sonali Paul

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MELBOURNE, July 1 (Reuters) - Australia's new Labor government has appointed a top scientist to lead a six-month review of the country's carbon credits following allegations that some projects earning credits are not really adding to carbon emissions reductions.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the integrity of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs), issued by the government's Emissions Reduction Fund, will be essential to help achieve the country's new pledge to cut carbon emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by 2030.

"We've got to have public confidence in the system, which has come under pressure in recent times," Bowen told a conference hosted by the Carbon Market Institute on Friday.

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The A$4.5 billion ($3 billion) Emissions Reduction Fund issues credits mostly to projects that avoid deforestation, regenerate native forests or collect methane from landfills. Those projects can sell credits to the government or to companies looking to meet their emissions cutting obligations and voluntary targets.

Earlier this year, Australian National University professor Andrew Macintosh, who previously worked for the Emissions Reduction Fund, outlined flaws in the way credits are issued and labelled the fund an "environmental and taxpayer fraud".

His examples included projects earning credits for growing trees that were already in place and getting credits for growing forests on land that cannot sustain forests.

Trading of ACCUs has rapidly picked up over the past year as companies look to offset emissions to help meet their own net zero targets, and trading is expected to increase even more under the new government as it seeks to cut emissions by 50% more than the previous government's target for 2030.

"Insuring the success of the Australian carbon credit unit framework is a high priority in that context as carbon trading becomes more important," Bowen said.

He said he would fully support whatever the review, to be led by one of the country's former chief scientists, Ian Chubb, recommended.

($1 = 1.4656 Australian dollars)

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Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Stephen Coates

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