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Soil carbon

30 August 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 continues during quarters 1 and 2 2021.
Technical and expert consultationIn progress
  • Technical review scheduled quarters 1 and 2 2021.
ERAC considerationComplete
  • ERAC consideration scheduled quarter 2 2021.
Public consultationIn progress
  • The Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee has released a draft soil carbon method, method supplement and simple method guide for public consultation for a period of 28 days. These documents are available on the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources’ consultation hub. Submissions will be accepted until 11:59 pm (AEST) Monday 27 September 2021.
Refinement and draft finalisationPending
  • Refinement and draft finalisation during quarter 3 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) will investigate opportunities to reduce costs of the hybrid approach including changes to the minimum sampling requirements and sampling frequency. The CER will work 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 will review current method provisions and continue engagement with stakeholders on possible revisions to support uptake. The ability to broaden the list of eligible management activities is limited by the CFI Act, which requires that credits are issued based on of carbon gains achieved through one of the specified eligible management activities. The CER will consider adding new eligible management activities, where their potential to generate abatement is supported by peer-reviewed studies that use primary data from on-farm trials conducted in Australia.
Investigating whether technologies are available to support a modelled-only approach to estimating soil carbon abatement.
The agency has not received sufficient evidence to facilitate a new fully modelled method by September 2021 and this approach is not being progressed for development this year. The hybrid approach will allow models to be developed and validated, which could facilitate a future modelled method.
​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 is reviewing and enhancing the spectroscopy requirements to support cost reductions using the measured approach.

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