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Indigenous leaders cautious about carbon trading schemes

Local Indigenous business leaders are enthusiastic about a carbon trading scheme as a means of emissions reduction and promoting economic development in Indigenous communities, but are warning them about signing agreements with unscrupulous traders reports Reem Al-Gharabally in the South Sydney Herald of February 2009.

“In the last two years a lot of people have been going to Aboriginal communities trying to get them to sign up to use emissions trading. The  legislation is not in place yet, and till such time as we know what is going on, we need to relax a bit and not rush off and sign up,” says Warren Mundine, chair of the Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce (AICC),  a non-profit company set up to promote Indigenous business and advise communities on emissions trading.

Carbon trading schemes work on a cap and trade system: a limit is set on the amount of carbon companies can emit in a given time period. If a company goes over its allocated portion of carbon emissions, it has to buy carbon credits from another market participant that has emitted less than its allocation and can therefore profitably trade them. Critics of the scheme say that companies will avoid making the necessary infrastructural changes to reduce emissions by keeping the price of carbon credits low.

A carbon trading scheme is set to be introduced in Australia in 2010. Mr Mundine believes the scheme has the potential to generate investment and jobs for Indigenous communities which own vast tracts of land across Australia but he warns viewing carbon trading as a cure-all.

“We do not want to get people thinking this is a panacea for economic woes in their community. It’s not. It is part of a package that can help their community. We want to ensure that Indigenous people are not ripped off and that they don’t miss the boat on the opportunities for their communities.” 

The AICC is currently conducting research to identify the ways the emissions scheme can benefit Aboriginal communities. 

“We need support by our community and the wider community to see that it is a simple tool that could help everyone – a national Indigenous trading strategy which allows our people to be part of the process, at the beginning rather than down at the end, which is what normally happens to us,” says Shane Phillips, one of the AICC’s directors and Chief Executive of the Tribal Warrior Association that runs tours on Sydney Harbour. “Our people have known for thousands of years how the ecology works. I think we have a lot to offer to the rest of the world and that has been something that has been overlooked,” Mr Phillips says.

Photo: Ali Blogg- Caption: Warren Mundine

Source: South Sydney Herald February 2009