Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has dismissed allegations of fraud in a billion-dollar taxpayer-funded carbon credit scheme, saying the criticism is unfounded and is part of a political attack on the industry.
The designer of the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) carbon credit scheme, Professor Andrew Macintosh, claimed last week that most of the money was being spent on bogus carbon reductions.
The program has so far paid around $1 billion for 100 million carbon credits, which are generated by farmers to protect forests and replant vegetation, and sold to polluting companies that want to offset their emissions and reduce their carbon footprint.
Analysis by Professor Macintosh, Associate Dean for Research at the ANU College of Law, found that up to 80% of carbon credits issued to date were “lacking integrity” and did not represent a “reduction real and supplementary. He claimed that flaws in the system had perpetrated “fraud on the environment, fraud on taxpayers and fraud on unwitting private buyers”.
But Mr Taylor will tell a stakeholder forum that the clean energy regulator had investigated previous claims by Prof Macintosh and lobby groups and found they were not backed by evidence.
“I think these criticisms are totally unfounded,” Taylor said at the Carbon Market Institute forum on Friday. “When industries are attacked politically, they have a responsibility to stand up – not for themselves, but for the facts.”
A study published in September by the Australia Institute and the Australian Conservation Foundation analyzed $300 million in credits issued for forest protection, known as avoided deforestation. It found that land clearing in the far west of New South Wales would have had to be at least 750% higher to justify payments made to farmers for not removing trees.
“It is telling that groups like the ACF have pulled out of this latest round of attacks on the ERF and are no longer promoting claims that have been refuted by the regulator,” Mr Taylor said.