New soil carbon agricultural systems method a gamechanger for industry

Wednesday 7 February 2018
 
Today the much-anticipated method for the measurement of soil carbon sequestration in agricultural systems which was developed by the Department of Environment and Energy was made publicly available.  
 
'This new methodology is a potential gamechanger for mainstreaming the creation of carbon credits from agriculture', said Matthew Warnken, Managing Director of Corporate Carbon.  'Importantly it provides farm owners and managers across the whole agricultural spectrum a strong incentive to integrate world class soil measurement and management practices to improve soil health into on-farm operations'.
 
The new method expands on the learning and experience gained from practitioners involved in pioneering projects aimed at sequestering carbon in soils under the grazing systems method.  To date there have been more that 30 projects registered under the Emissions Reduction Fund and over 20,000 hectares of project area baselined as part of the measurement approach to soil carbon.
 
One of Corporate Carbon's projects has recently been through its first round of testing and measured a significant increase in soil organic carbon.  'We are in the process of finalising our paperwork and will shortly be making an application for Australian Carbon Credit Units with the Clean Energy Regulator', said Matthew Warnken.  This application will be a first for Australia and the first project internationally to apply for carbon credits using soil carbon measurement under a regulated offsets scheme.  The project is utilising the Soilkee pasture renovation system.  Soilkee is an Australian invention for pasture cropping that combines cultivation, mulching, aeration and mixed species seeding to effectively build topsoil and carbon, while improving overall productivity.
 
'The new method will provide greater flexibility for project development and implementation and will form a critical component as we and other soil carbon project developers roll out soil carbon projects across Australia', said Warnken.  'We anticipate a ten-fold increase in soil carbon project registrations over the next 18 months'.
 
The release of the new methodology is also timely in light of the 'Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture' decision which was made at COP23 in Bonn late last year.  This decision will bring greater international focus on implementing climate actions in the agricultural sector, including 'soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility'.  
 
'Australia is well positioned to share its significant expertise and learnings with other jurisdictions', observed Warnken.  'The Government should be commended for its significant investment in establishing a robust soil carbon framework that can be deployed at an enterprise level.  There is a real opportunity to leverage the value of this framework by replicating it with other jurisdictions such as New Zealand and North America.'
 
Further Information:
Matthew Warnken
Managing Director
+61 418 238 040
matthew.warnken@corporatecarbon.com.au 
 
Key points on the measurement of soil carbon sequestration in agricultural systems
(www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2018L00089 for the method and www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/government/emissions-reduction-fund/methods/measurement-of-soil-carbon-sequestration-in-agricultural-systems for the background to its development).
 
The new method It provides a series of improvements and opportunities for greater participation, including:
  • range of eligible projects is expanded to cover all agriculture practices, including broad acre cropping viticulture, and horticulture, as well as grazing
  • measurement basis for projects is maintained which allows greater flexibility in implementing soil carbon projects.  A baseline soil organic carbon measurement is taken at the start of the project, before an eligible new activity to build soil carbon has begun.  A subsequent soil test at a later date determines if there has been any carbon increase, and if so, carbon credits can be issued (more or less the measured difference in soil carbon).  This is preferred over a modelled input approach, which give a deemed amount of sequestration usually at a very conservative rate and also can be limiting in terms of eligible activities
  • improved flexibility in sampling design, including the allowance of unequal strata areas, which will assist in better mapping and reducing the variance of sampling results 
  • allowed new technology approaches for measurement, such as vis-NIR that CSIRO are developing, which has the potential to reduce measurement costs, making the measurement of an increased number of samples commercially viable (which will assist in reducing sampling variance)
  • use of compost is included as an eligible activity.  Recycled organic materials are directly referenced: ‘soil amendment means a substance to improve the health or quality of soil, such as fertiliser, recycled organic materials, lime or gypsum’ and fits in the definition of ‘non-synthetic fertiliser’
  • no need to notify the Clean Energy Regulator every time management practices change, which will reduce administrative requirements for project implementation
  • greater clarification on definitional and operational matters, such as the management of trees and regrowth
  • general improvement in implementation of carbon accounting equations, which will reduce uncertainty for projects at audit time.
 
Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture
 
For more information on ‘Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture’ decision made at the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) last year in Bonn, Germany see https://ccafs.cgiar.org/blog/step-forward-agriculture-un-climate-talks-–-koronivia-joint-work-agriculture.  
 

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