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Overview of a soil carbon project

Overview of a soil carbon project

    ​​​A soil carbon project involves removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in soil primarily by increasing the amount of decomposing plant material and microbes in the soil. This is done by setting up specific project management activities and management actions that change agricultural soil conditions to improve crop and pasture growth.

    The project helps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas entering the atmosphere because carbon is stored (or sequestered) in the soil following the breakdown of root, stem and leaf material of pasture grasses and crops. The stored carbon is called ‘carbon stock’. Some project activities add extra carbon to the soil through increased growth, and therefore a greater volume of pasture and other plant-based matter, called ‘biomass’, in paddocks. Other activities reduce the rate at which carbon is removed from an area, and therefore the rate at which soil carbon is decreased—for example, projects that retain stubble. The resulting net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is termed the ‘net abatement’.
    The carbon stored by the project is modelled directly from the amount of greenhouse gases calculated as tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (t CO2-e). The main steps are summarised below.
    First, 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, as detailed in the method.
    Second, net emissions are determined as follows.
    • Calculate the baseline emissions, or average yearly emissions that occurred over five years in the project area before the project started, from the following sources:
      • livestock metabolism
      • lime and synthetic fertilisers added to soil
      • crop residues and operations to till crop residues into soil
      • energy (fuel and electricity) used to operate irrigation.
    • Calculate the project emissions released from these sources during the project.
    • Subtract the baseline emissions from the project emissions to calculate net emissions for each source.
    • Add up the total net emissions from all sources over the project reporting period.
    Finally, for the first reporting period, net carbon abatement is calculated by subtracting the total change in emissions from all sources over the project reporting period from the amount of sequestered carbon. For subsequent reporting periods, the net abatement from the previous reporting period also needs to be considered in the calculation of net abatement for the current reporting period.
    As a sequestration activity, that is, an activity that stores carbon in vegetation or soil, a soil carbon project is subject to a ‘permanence obligation’. This means the modelled soil carbon must be maintained ‘permanently’ (currently either 25 or 100 years). If a fire or other disturbance occurs in the area during the project, or project activities stop, causing a decline in the amount of carbon stock, the land and its soil must be managed to allow the carbon stock to return to previously reported values. Alternatively, ACCUs equivalent to the loss of carbon caused either by the disturbance, or by cessation of activity, can be relinquished.
    To conduct a soil carbon project and earn ACCUs, make sure you read and understand the method and other legislative requirements. You will need to:

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