Emissions Reduction Fund

The Climate Solutions - Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) is the Australian Government’s mechanism for purchasing carbon abatement. It does this by buying Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) from carbon projects. Soil carbon projects are registered under a methodology called Measurement of Soil Carbon Sequestration in Agricultural Systems. Agricultural operations can receive carbon credits using this method if they implement new activities to build soil carbon on their land and record measurable increases in soil organic carbon.

 

Getting Started…

there are essentially five steps to running a soil carbon project:

 

Step 1. Register your Project

This involves setting up an account with AgriProve, completing an Expression of Interest (EoI) and Consent form and describing and mapping how the project will be implemented in a land management strategy. AgriProve will create the maps for you to verify.

We fast track project registration by initially registering projects in our name and transferring the registration later, reducing upfront paperwork and providing flexibility for farmers. To get started our EoI and Consent form needs signing by all landholders on project property titles. This form also acts as a management record of past activity.

The EoI and Consent gives us 18 months exclusivity and the legal right to register and operate the project for ERF purposes. However, the purchase of carbon credits is conditional upon meeting commercial terms of the agreement.

The main commitment is maintaining the land in an agricultural system for 25 years after first credit issuance. There is a 20 per cent discount of carbon credits issued, but this is seen as preferable to a one-hundred-year obligation.

 

Step 2. Soil Carbon Baseline Sampling

After contract signing and project registration, baseline soil sampling is carried out to establish existing soil carbon levels before the work to build carbon begins. We measure organic carbon down to one metre following audited sampling protocols. Subsequent soil samples are measured against this baseline to assess the extent of soil carbon sequestration and then carbon credit creation. Soil samples are sent to an accredited laboratory for testing.

 

Step 3. Project Implementation

A new mechanism to build soil carbon must be implemented across the whole project area. Many techniques may be used to achieve this. To date, the most effective method to produce soil carbon credits has been the Soilkee system.

Soilkee sows annual crops into perennial pastures providing a multi-species seeding solution that combines cultivation, aeration and mulching. It improves grazing systems, filling summer and winter feed gaps, and kick starts positive feedback loops.

  • Partial cultivation of 17 per cent of the treated area down to 75 mm creates an initial mechanical intervention to improve water infiltration

  • Green manuring provides soil microbiology with an additional food source and improves microbial activity

  • Mixed species planting of winter growing plants provides additional forage for livestock

  • The ‘salad bowl’ effect created by the mixed species plantings also improves animal nutrition by providing a greater range of feed options for livestock to choose from

  • Additional root biomass from planted annuals improves soil organic matter and assists with water retention

  • Nitrogen fixation from legumes increases nitrogen availability for plants.

The advantage of Soilkee is that it provides a planned ‘treatment’ program for farmers to follow with measurable results. Furthermore, growing additional feed has benefits for any farming systems operating under a certification program such as organic or bio dynamic in that it removes the risk of requiring additional off-farm inputs that also need to be certified.

Reporting for the project requires that appropriate monitoring is undertaken and records of farm management practices are kept. For example, taking time and date stamped photos of project mechanism implementation. These reports are audited and used as evidence to issue the project with the measured number of carbon credits.

 

Step 4. Measure

Follow up measurement of soil organic carbon levels is undertaken 2-5 years after baseline testing to determine how carbon levels have changed since Soilkee treatments began. Subsequent soil sampling rounds take place on the anniversary of baseline sampling using the same procedures as baseline testing. We are anticipating taking soil tests every two years for high intensity activity such as the Soilkee system in high rainfall areas.

 

Step 5. Apply for Carbon Credits

Project reporting and application for carbon credits requires measured increases in soil carbon to be calculated, according to the method, and for carbon credits to be created.

Increases in soil carbon measured in subsequent testing rounds are “converted” into carbon credits through the completion of an offsets report, a project report and an application for carbon credits. AgriProve will manage these reports and applications for you.


Project Costs

The following points set out the main project costs which relate to soil testing and third-party audit:

  • Baseline soil carbon tests occur shortly after project registration is complete. The cost per farm depends on the size of the property. As a guide, around 200 hectares costs $5,000 (ex GST), whereas around 400-500 hectares costs around $10,000 (ex GST)

  • The next round of sampling for soil carbon is 2-4 years after the baseline round and the same costs apply. After the sampling we will be able to see if there has been any increase in soil organic carbon, and what this translates to in terms of carbon credits per hectare. As a guide a 1 percentage point increase in soil organic carbon in the top 30 cm of soil will deliver 124 carbon credits per hectare.

  • Project audit costs are estimated to be $12,500 (ex GST). We will fund the audit cost and be reimbursed for these costs from the issued carbon credits.