The Clean Energy Regulator has released the Understanding your soil carbon project – Simple guide.
This simple guide provides a step-by-step guide on how to register, run and report on a soil carbon project.
See soil carbon projects under the Climate Solutions Fund for more information.
If you have answered yes to these questions, the estimating sequestration of carbon in soil using default values method (model-based soil carbon) method
may be suitable for your business.
A model-based soil carbon project involves setting up specific project management activities on eligible land that aim to remove carbon from the atmosphere by increasing the amount of carbon added to the soil. As they grow, plants take up carbon and return it to the soil, where it is broken down to form soil carbon.
A project using this method may also aim to decrease the amount of carbon biomass removed from the soil, for example, by keeping crop stubble in the soil. The amount of carbon stored in the project area from each project management activity over the project reporting period is modelled using the
Sequestration Value Maps.
At least one of three types of 'project management activities' must be undertaken in a project. Each of these is made up of specific 'management actions':
Soil carbon projects are to be carried out on operating farms. As such, the projects are designed to support profitable enterprises and accommodate 'business-as-usual' activities, such as land use rotation and other activities that are not part of the project's management actions. However, soil carbon projects must provide new ways to sequester carbon, and so cannot include existing practices on the farm.
As a sequestration activity, that is, an activity that stores carbon on the land, a model-based soil carbon project is subject to
permanence obligations. This means the sequestration must be maintained for the nominated permanence period (either 25 or 100 years).
Section 114 of the
Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act 2011 (the Act) allows for methods to be revised and varied. This is to ensure methods continue to operate as originally intended. Variations to methods are developed and drafted by the Department of the Environment and Energy. Information on
draft methods and method variations is available on the Department of the Environment and Energy’s website.
The Clean Energy Regulator recommends making yourself familiar with proposed method variations relevant to your project should they arise, and how any changes between the original method and the varied method may affect your project plan.
You must read and understand the method and other legislative requirements to conduct a model-based soil carbon project and earn Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs). This includes:
The quick reference guide provides basic information about eligibility criteria and obligations that must be met to earn ACCUs from this method. It includes specific links to the relevant legislation but should not be viewed as an alternative to reading the full legislative requirements. Additional information can also be found in the full method guide linked above.
Twenty-five years – The crediting period is the period of time a project can apply to claim Australian carbon credit units.
Relevant section of the Act:
There are general eligibility requirements in the Act, which include:
In addition, projects must be carried out on operating farms in areas of Australia for which
FullCAM (Full Carbon Accounting Model) data exists. The project must provide new ways to store carbon in the soil, and cannot include existing practices used on the farm.
The method also has general eligibility requirements that apply to all projects, which relate to the carbon estimation areas of the project land, and the permanence period that you select for your project (25 or 100 years).
Depending on the project management activities that you choose, the method also has specific eligibility requirements. The three types of management activities are:
Part 3 of the method also requires that specific information is included in a project application before the project can be considered eligible. You should ensure you refer to this part and provide all the required information.
Find this part in the latest version of the Act:
Find this part in the latest determination of the Method:
A project involves removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil. This is done by setting up project management activities that change agricultural soil conditions to improve crop and pasture growth.
You must undertake at least one of the following types of project management activities:
Each of the three project management activities is made up of specific management actions, as described below.
In sustainable intensification projects, new ways of productive land management are started with the aim to increase soil carbon content. This can include:
Two of the above actions may be undertaken on either pasture or cropping land, but pasture renovation may only be carried out on land that is already under pasture.
Stubble retention projects involve keeping biomass as crop residues in the field, where previously they were removed by baling or burning (but not by grazing). This can only be done on land that is already cropped.
In conversion to pasture projects, cropped land is changed to permanent pasture. This can only be done on land that has been continuously cropped for at least five years before the project starts, and the land must stay as pasture for the permanence period of the project.
Before you apply to run a project, you need to identify your project area using the
Sequestration Value Maps found under method tools, and then divide the project area into a combination of carbon estimation areas and exclusion areas. Only one project management activity can be carried out in each carbon estimation area.
More information about
project activities, carbon estimation areas and exclusion areas.
Find these sections in the latest determination of the Method:
When preparing a project area, you cannot clear woody vegetation, except where you:
Find this section in the latest determination of the Method:
Abatement is calculated by first subtracting a baseline level of emissions from the actual emissions produced by a project. This net amount of emissions is then subtracted from the amount of carbon stored in the soil by the project to determine the amount of abatement.
The baseline emissions are calculated over a 'baseline emissions period', which is usually the five years before the project starts. They represent the level of emissions that would have been produced if your project did not go ahead, and they vary depending on the type of management activities and actions you undertake.
The method accounts for the following sources of emissions, when calculating both baseline and project emissions:
The amount of carbon stored in soil as a result of your management activities is modelled using the
Sequestration Value Maps located under method tools. The calculations are based on default values, instead of measured values. This is because it is sometimes not practical or easy to measure the amount of carbon stored in every project area. The default values have already been modelled by
FullCAM for different types of soils, climate and management activities.
Click for more detail on
calculating abatement, emissions and soil carbon levels.
Relevant section of the Method:
In addition to the reporting requirements of the Act and the Rule, Sections 93–96 of the method set out method-specific requirements for offset reports that relate to the following:
Relevant section of the Rule:
You must notify us if:
In addition to the general monitoring requirements of the Act, projects must meet specific monitoring requirements in the method. These include monitoring:
In addition to the record-keeping requirements of the Act and the Rule, projects must also meet specific record-keeping requirements in the method.
Section 98 of the method outlines that these include records relating to:
Section 99 of the method outlines further records that must be kept in relation to determining whether a carbon estimation area has less than 70 per cent vegetation groundcover. These records include:
Sections 100–101 of the method list additional records that need to be kept to show you are monitoring your project management activities. These records involve livestock information and the parameters given in the table in Section 101.
All projects receive an audit schedule when the project is declared and must provide audit reports according to this schedule. A minimum of three audits will be scheduled and additional audits may be triggered. For more information on the audit requirements, see the Act, the Rule and the
audit information on our website.
To meet the requirements of the method, a qualified person must prepare a strategy for each management action, to ensure the actions improve productivity as well as increase soil carbon. The requirements for qualified persons are detailed in the
Guidelines—Qualified Person under the Estimating Sequestration of Carbon in Soil Using Default Values Determination.
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