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Tidal Restoration of Blue Carbon Ecosystems method

03 August 2023


The blue carbon method enables Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs) to be earned by projects that remove or modify tidal restriction mechanisms and allow tidal flow to be introduced to an area of land. This results in the rewetting of completely or partially drained coastal wetland ecosystems and the conversion of freshwater wetlands to brackish or saline wetlands. The method enables ACCUs to be earned for the establishment of coastal wetland ecosystems that occurs as a result of project activities.

There are three components within coastal wetland ecosystems that contribute to carbon abatement for a blue carbon project:

  • soil carbon sequestration (through vertical accretion)
  • carbon sequestered in above and below ground vegetation biomass
  • emissions avoided from introducing tidal flow.

Proponents will need to consider the legislative requirements of the blue carbon method and the requirements set out in the blue carbon method supplement.

Storing blue carbon in our coastal ecosystems

This video describes the process of storing blue carbon in our coastal ecosystems and how ACCUs can be created from this process.

Project activities and eligibility requirements

The activity covered by the blue carbon method is the removal or modification of a tidal restriction mechanism to allow the introduction of tidal flow and the establishment of coastal wetland ecosystems in the project area. As part of the project activities, blue carbon projects may also be required to use existing infrastructure or drainage infrastructure, or modify, install or construct new infrastructure or drainage infrastructure to manage the extent of tidal inundation that occurs as a result of modifying or removing the tidal restriction mechanism.

A registered blue carbon project must maintain tidal flow to the project area throughout the project permanence period to ensure that the carbon sequestered in the vegetation and soils is maintained. This method also has prohibited and restricted activities.

Projects are required to meet general eligibility requirements and land eligibility requirements as set out in the method and the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act 2011. Some of these requirements include that:

  • proponents work with a qualified person to prepare a hydrological assessment that estimates the extent of tidal inundation that will occur as a result of the project activities.
  • proponents work with a qualified engineer to prepare a project operations and maintenance plan that provides an overview of intended project activities, and any ongoing maintenance required to ensure that any infrastructure used in the project continues to operate as intended.
  • proponents prepare a project extent map that identifies key features of the land that will be impacted by tidal inundation as a result of project activities.
  • where required by Commonwealth, State or Territory laws, project proponents prepare an acid sulphate soils management plan and mosquito management plan.

Net abatement calculations

documentasset:The Blue Carbon Accounting Model (BlueCAM) has been developed alongside the blue carbon method and is used in accordance with the BlueCAM guidelines to calculate the net carbon abatement from each of the soil and vegetation sequestration and emissions avoidance components of a project. Project proponents are not required to conduct sampling. The model-only approach is intended to simplify the requirements of the method and reduce costs associated with sampling.

BlueCAM was developed by a collaboration of 13 of Australia’s coastal wetland scientists and experts from several universities across Australia. BlueCAM is based on regionally differentiated parameters that are underpinned by the latest empirical science and data. BlueCAM may be updated as new data becomes available to ensure the model provides accurate estimates of abatement.

documentasset:The Blue carbon accounting model (BlueCAM) technical overview outlines the approach used by BlueCAM to estimate carbon abatement, including the rationale behind the selection of parameters and input data.

Under this method, the net abatement amount (the amount used for crediting ACCUs) for a project will be the summed change in carbon stored by a project compared to the previous crediting report (or relative to the baseline for the first reporting period), and the emissions avoided relative to the baseline, for each carbon estimation area (CEA). This calculation will also need to account for any increases in emissions resulting from the project, including:

  • any direct impacts on forests and vegetation due to the introduction of tidal flows
  • fuel used for the operation of heavy machinery when carrying out project activities
  • soil disturbance because of excavation activities.

Permanence period

When registering a blue carbon project, you can choose either a 25-year or 100-year permanence period. During this period, carbon stored by the coastal wetland ecosystems that have established because of your project, must be maintained.

Sequestered carbon can be released back into the atmosphere by man-made or natural events, thereby reversing the environmental benefit of the carbon stored by the blue carbon project. Sequestration is regarded as having a ‘permanent’ benefit to the atmosphere if it is maintained for 100 years. As blue carbon projects achieve abatement through sequestration and emissions avoidance, a sequestration buffer is applied to the sequestration abatement. This buffer is in place of a permanence period discount and risk of reversal buffer that usually apply to ACCU scheme sequestration projects. A sequestration buffer of 25% is applied to the sequestration abatement for 25-year permanence period projects.

If sequestered carbon is not maintained, or if the project is revoked, proponents may need to relinquish ACCUs that have been issued for the sequestration components of the method. The application of relinquishment provisions to blue carbon projects are outlined in the guidance: documentasset:Relinquishment of ACCUs under joint emissions avoidance and sequestration methods. The permanence period discount applied to 100-year permanence period projects depends on the proportion of impacted land (as identified by the hydrological assessment prepared for project registration) included in the project area of a blue carbon project. If 80-100% of impacted land is included in the project area, a sequestration buffer of 5% is applied to the sequestration abatement.

Where less than 80% of impacted land can be included in the project area, a sequestration buffer of 25% is applied to the sequestration. This higher discount is intended to manage the risk that the coastal wetland ecosystem vegetation that establishes because of the project, migrates beyond the project area over time.

Offsets reports and claiming carbon credits

An offsets report is the document (plus supporting information) that proponents provide to the agency to claim carbon credits. It details a project’s progress, including the net abatement amount. Proponents can nominate the intervals of their reporting periods from 6 months to a maximum of 5 years.

Proponents can submit offsets report and claim carbon credits through the Clean Energy Regulator Client Portal. Before a proponent can be issued carbon credits, they need to set up an Australian National Registry of Emissions Units (ANREU) account.

Legislative requirements

Method development process

The blue carbon method was made by the Minister in January 2022.

For information on public consultation and consideration of the method by the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee (ERAC), visit the blue carbon method page on the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water's website.

Tools and resources

Blue Carbon method video series

We have developed a 4-part video series to help you decide if a blue carbon project is right for you and what you need to do to begin a project. The series also details how to calculate abatement using BlueCAM and provides a case study of an example restoration site.

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