What is Carbon Farming?

carbon farming

Carbon farming refers to a change of environmental, agricultural or business management in relation to vegetation, fire, soil, livestock or marine environments that aims to increase storage of carbon in our landscapes and oceans, or to avoid the release of greenhouse emissions.

Carbon farming activities aim to generate or accrue carbon credits when undertaken in compliance with a scientifically regulated method. When a carbon project is approved under certain standards, carbon credits will be awarded to the project proponent accordingly.

Some of the regulated standards where carbon projects can undergo approval processes are as follows:
– Emissions Reduction Fund (Australia based)
– Land Restoration Fund (Australia based)
– Gold Standard (International)
– Verified Carbon Standard (International).

In Australia, the Clean Energy Regulator is a federal government statutory body responsible for administering Australia’s emissions reduction framework for renewable energy and Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs). Under international standards, there are similar regulator bodies that monitor the carbon projects and industry standards such as Verra or the Gold Standard Technical Governance Committee.

Mainly undertaken through the environment’s natural regeneration processes or emission avoidance methods such as livestock feed, carbon farming methods worldwide aim to base the economy on the revival of nature. The overall aim of carbon projects is to improve ecosystem health and generate an additional source of income for the relevant parties (such as the landholders).

Vegetation Carbon Methodologies

Sequestration and Emissions Avoidance

The revival or regeneration of vegetation often holds the most risk adverse financial return for the landholder or business. Vegetation projects help generate carbon credits by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it as carbon in the soil and vegetation biomass. This can be achieved either through the growth of young trees into full forest potential, or under the avoided deforestation method.

To become eligible for a vegetation project, a change of management is required, referred to as the additionality requirement. Some examples of management changes could include (but not limited to) the following:
– Rotational/planned grazing (destocking/restocking)
– Resting paddocks for given lengths of time
– Fire management improvement
– Improved fencing infrastructure (such as kangaroo fencing/increased pest management)
– Improved protection of biodiversity and areas of high ecological value.

Some examples of vegetation project methods could include:
– Reforestation
– Revegetation/planting
– Protecting native forest at risk of clearing (avoided deforestation).

Cow Fields Round

Please note that there are many various methods that will impact your eligibility for a vegetation carbon project and it is recommended you engage a carbon farming professional to undertake an assessment for further eligibility analysis.

Savannah Fire Management Methodology

Sequestration and Emissions Avoidance

The 2019/2020 Australian bushfires helped industry and communities understand the significant risk that vegetation and fire mismanagement has on greenhouse gas emissions and agriculture. Carbon emissions produced from fires can either be avoided or sequestered through more effective fire management strategies, ultimately accumulating/accruing the carbon credits. This is undertaken through the Australian Government ERF. 

To begin, a baseline assessment will be required to be undertaken which will assess previous fire management history and subsequent emissions caused. 

For project eligibility, a change of fire management is required which aims to improve upon existing practises, ultimately reducing carbon emissions. The project will also need to meet the total annual rainfall requirements outlined
in the methodology. 

fire round

The change of management required will consider the ecological health of the land, agricultural productivity and relevant or local indigenous/cultural knowledge of fire practise. 

Some examples of the change of management on a project could include:
Cool burns within the specified time frame (winter months) 
Mosaic burning patterns
Annual burning regimes planned for best environmental and agricultural outcome)

Please note that to be eligible for this methodology the project will need to meet the annual total rainfall requirements outlined (methodology applies for northern parts of Australia).

Herd Management Methodology

Emissions Avoidance

Methane emissions can be reduced in livestock through more effective livestock management. Carbon credits are produced when a reduction has been achieved. 

A baseline assessment which includes 7 years of records will need to be undertaken on your property herd or project to understand your current annual emissions.

To accumulate carbon credits, you will need to implement the change of management:
Reduced average herd age
Planning for earlier selling of livestock through the ‘quickening’ of herd maturity
Reduced proportion of unproductive animals in the herd
Adding feed additives into livestock diet (such as the asparagopsis seaweed supplement)

cow close round

Soil Carbon Methodology

To implement a soil carbon project, you will require a baseline assessment to be undertaken on the proposed project. This requires strategic soil tests to be taken throughout the eligible project area. 

The total carbon in the soil at that given time will need to be increased over the length of the project in order to generate carbon credits. This can be achieved in a number of different ways.

soil carbon methodology

After the change of management is implemented, the soil will be tested periodically over the life of the project to measure any increases in carbon.

For eligibility requirements, a change of management is required from the start of the project which aim to increase the soil carbon per hectare rate. Some of these change of management methods include:
Rotational and cover cropping
Multi species pasture cropping
Biochar application
Regenerative/rotational grazing
Resting land for recovery
Leucana planting.

Biochar Methodology

Biochar is often referred to as ‘charcoal’ resulting from pyrolosis, a process that involves the burning of waste biomass such as vegetation or saw dust. It is often used as an organic mulch for soil. 

According to peer reviewed literature, the application of biochar in soil can improve soil carbon levels up to 20%, mainly from the increase in soil nutrients and water retention capacity. In addition, it can boost crop yields by up to 42% and reduce the heavy metals in plant tissues by 39%.

Under Australian carbon standards, the ERF/LRF does not currently recognise biochar as a methodology, however it does under the Verified Carbon Standard. This newly proposed methodology involves allowing landholders and businesses to accrue carbon credits through the application of biochar to soil. The proposed  methodology is currently under review for approval and will soon become a legitimate source for accruing carbon credits.

biochar methodology round image
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Reef Credits

The Queensland Reef Credit Fund was an initiative that aims to help farmers reduce nitrogen and sediment loads into Great Barrier Reef catchment areas. By implementing a change of management to land, the intended outcome of the program is to improve water quality impacting coral reef species while incentivising the landholder. 

A baseline assessment which includes 7 years of records will need to be undertaken on your property herd or project to understand your current annual emissions.

A change of management to be eligible for reef credits could include:
– Gully restoration
– Change of management from cropping to pasture
– Reduction in fertiliser
– Erosion and sediment control solutions to reduce sediment loads from surface water runoff.

Blue Carbon Methodology

Blue Carbon is the newest methodology and industry topic. Under the Verified Carbon Standard, carbon credits can now be generated through the ecological restoration of mangroves and other eligible marine ecosystems (for example salt marshes
and seagrasses). 

Other blue carbon methods such as growing seaweed may become relevant in the future, however there is no current methodology under the national or international standards that allow for this at this stage.

This methodology aims to reduce emissions through avoided deforestation and forest degradation management strategies. 

It is applicable to the following areas that would either be deforested or degraded:
Forest lands
Forested wetlands
Forested peatlands
Tidal wetlands  

The methodology also includes eligibility for projects that include forest regeneration or rehabilitation for tidal wetlands or peatlands.

blue carbon round

Carbon Credits Co-benefits +
Biodiversity Offset Schemes

carbon credits image

Through the Land Restoration Fund (LRF) or the Carbon and Biodiversity Pilot Rounds, carbon projects may be eligible to apply for a co-benefit or for biodiversity offsets as well as carbon credits.

Carbon projects often have multiple other benefits to business and community and the LRF or Australian Government current pilot schemes allow business’s to claim and capitilise on these opportunities.

If eligible and approved for LRF co-benefits, the carbon credits produced will be sold at a premium price on the Australian market. If the project is applicable through the pilot rounds, there will be an issuance of both carbon credits and biodiversity offsets.

Examples of potential co-benefits make a project eligible include:
Increasing of land biodiversity value
Increased indigenous engagement 
Improved climate resilience and ecosystem functionality. 

Please see the Clean Energy Regulator website for more information on the
LRF carbon co-benefits.

What’s Involved in Implementing a Carbon Project? 

To begin any carbon project, there will need to be an assessment undertaken for the best suited methodology and standard relevant to your project, business or land type. Some of these methodologies include:
Vegetation Regeneration
Tree planting 
Savannah Burning
Herd Management
Avoided Clearing/Deforestation
Soil Carbon
Biochar Carbon
Reef Credits

*Please note that carbon/reef credit and biodiversity potential will vary depending on current management, project size, annual rainfall and geographical location.

carbon project round blue

A carbon pre-feasibility assessment will need to be completed to assess the your project’s ‘carbon potential’ and ‘change of management strategy’ for project eligibility requirements.

Some examples of the changes in management required include:
Regenerative grazing (rotational/planned stocking and restocking);
Multi-species pasture cropping
Biochar application to soil
Better fire regime planning 
Improved fencing and water infrastructure

Supplementary cattle feed to reduce methane emissions
Avoided deforestation or land degradation for marine area restoration.