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Soil carbon

13 October 2021

The new soil carbon method will help support more uptake of soil projects by reducing the costs of running soil carbon projects by using new soil carbon models. This is consistent with the Low Emissions Technology statement. Reducing the cost of soil carbon measurements has the potential to unlock soil carbon sequestration on a broad scale and improve farm productivity including enhanced crop yields and boosted resilience to drought and erosion.

Diagram of the soil carbon method development process.

Method development plan

Development stageStatusMilestones
Planning and scopingComplete
  • Ministerial method priority announced quarter 4 2020.
  • Initial method scoping and planning completed in quarter 4 2020.
Develop draft methodComplete
  • Initial co-design workshop held quarter 4 2020.
  • Co-design process continued during quarters 1 and 2 2021.
  • Second co-design workshop held quarter 2 2021.
Technical and expert consultationComplete
  • Technical review scheduled quarters 1, 2 and 3 2021.
ERAC considerationComplete
  • ERAC consideration scheduled quarter 3 2021.
Public consultationComplete
  • Public consultation ndertaken in quarter 3 2021.
Refinement and draft finalisationIn progress
  • Refinement and draft finalisation during quarters 3 and 4 2021.
ERAC approvalPending
  • ERAC review scheduled quarter 4 2021.
Minister approvalPending
  • Method finalised by quarter 4 2021.

Issues Register

Ensuring soil sampling cost reductions are achieved through the new hybrid approach.
The Clean Energy Regulator (the agency) has reduced costs of the hybrid approach including changes to the minimum sampling requirements and sampling frequency. The agency has worked with ERAC to ensure the new hybrid approach meets the offsets integrity standards.
Revisions to the existing measured soil carbon method to ensure useability and uptake, including comprehensive review of eligible management activities, restricted activities, prohibited activities and the Land Management Strategy. Stakeholders have asked for a high-level list of activities to “future proof” the method.
The agency has reduced the complexity of the method by replacing the regression approach to estimating net carbon abatement that applied under the 2018 method with a calculation of changes in carbon stocks at the end of each sampling round compared with the baseline carbon stocks. To further encourage uptake without adversely affecting integrity, the temporarily withheld discount has been reduced from 50% to 25%. In addition, land with forest cover that is used for agricultural production is now eligible under the new method as are a number of previously restricted activities including: immaterial use of soil amendments containing biochar or coal, or and the destocking of pasture under drought conditions.
The ability to broaden the list of eligible management activities to higher level activities is limited by the CFI Act, which requires that credits are issued on the basis of carbon gains achieved through one of the specified eligible management activities.
Investigating whether technologies are available to support a modelled-only approach to estimating soil carbon abatement.
The agency has worked with technical experts to ensure the net abatement calculations are fit for purpose and address the problems with the 2018 calculations. The agency has also moved from a fixed-depth to a fixed-mass accounting approach to reduce complexity and facilitate accounting for soil carbon changes from an increase in soil carbon concentration rather than soil mass.
​Ensuring net abatement calculations are fit for purpose
​The agency is working with technical experts to ensure the net abatement calculations are fit for purpose and considering changes to support uptake that maintain integrity such as alternative discounting arrangements.  
​Reducing costs of soil sampling.
The agency has reviewed and enhanced the spectroscopy requirements to support cost reductions using the measured approach.

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