FREEHILLS HAS been rewarded for its key role in developing Landcare Australia’s innovative carbon trading scheme, being named a Landcare Foundation Partner at the National Landcare Awards held at Parliament House last week.
The National awards, which are held biennially, aim to reward excellence in a number of categories including education, community, primary production and nature conservation.
Freehills, which has acted as Landcare’s pro bono solicitor for more than 18 years, was recognised for its instrumental role in establishing and developing Landcare’s CarbonSMART — a carbon sequestration program trading in the voluntary and compliance market, which has now been accredited by both the Federal Government’s Greenhouse Friendly program and the NSW Government’s Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme.
Freehills partner John Taberner, who has recently been appointed to the board of CarbonSMART, accepted the award on behalf of the Freehills team, which included solicitors Jason Johnston and Kirsty Campbell. It was presented by Australian actor and Landcare Ambassador Jack Thompson.
According to CarbonSMART’s managing director, Matthew Reddy, the initiative was developed in response to demand from landholders.
“The famers and the conservatives said ‘Look, we’d like to get involved in carbon trading, but we don’t want to go to some white shoe brigade shark who wants to just rip us off with carbon credits. We need a credible program that looks after our interests’, and so that’s why Landcare became involved.
“Then we had a reputable product we were able to then trade to major corporates and governments,” he said. “We’ve got to a point now where nobody is better accredited than us, and that’s really a result of Freehills’ work.”
Reddy explained that although Landcare is about 95 per cent government funded, the 5 per cent of funding they receive from the corporate sector is essential for innovative projects.
“Governments usually have to go through a whole raft of procedural measures to ensure that money is allocated to areas that meet government priorities … and so those innovative things like CarbonSMART can only be done with the support of corporates,” he said.
Taberner said that Freehills has been involved in a wide variety of work with Landcare throughout their longstanding relationship. One of the most significant matters involved conducting litigation in Federal Court to protect their copyright of Landcare’s distinctive “hands” logo.
“That was very important litigation for them, because essentially [the logo] is their most valuable asset and they use the rights to that brand as their principal source of income,” he said.