Soil Carbon Projects

Soil Carbon Projects

Soil Carbon trading in now a reality. Australia leads the world in many areas. We one of the first countries to produce legislation for soil carbon,  via the Emission Reduction Fund (ERF) and the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming) Act 2001. We also lead the world in soil carbon testing technologies, meaning more accuracy and less variations. Plus the fact we have a good uptake of regenerative land management methodologies that are essential to the sequestration of carbon into the soil or what is called "carbon farming" or "regenerative agriculture". (This is discussed in the Regenerative Land Management page )

There are many companies coming into the soil carbon project space, and it is definitely a case of "buyer beware" situation. The Carbon Market Institute (CMI) is an independent industry association that has signatories to their Code of Conduct. CMI support the vision of achieving a well-functioning carbon industry in Australia and are committed to best practice.


Are you considering a soil carbon project?

First what are the benefits of sequestering carbon in your soil?
What are the issues to consider?

Benefits

  • Soil carbon improves soil health.
  • Increase in soil carbon improves rainfall infiltration.
  • Increase in soil carbon, will increase the amount of water that can be held in the soil profile, meaning more water for production and increases climate resilience.
  • For every 1% increase in soil organic matter the soil profile can hold an extra 144,000 lt. of water/ha.
  • As soil carbon increases, more nutrients are made available in the soil for plants. Reduced fertiliser use.
  • Doesn't mean locking up land and being told what to do. (To maximise the amount of soil carbon you sequester, it is well advised that you have someone skilled in that area to monitor your management).
  • Opportunity to diversify, new income stream to your business.
  •  Adopting regenerative land management practices will increase production and profitability, apart from the issue of soil carbon.

Considerations

  • It is essential for you to understand that to sequester carbon in the soil you will need to use regenerative land management practices. (see the Regenerative Land Management page) 
  • You need training and skills to sequester soil carbon.
  • You will need to commit to the soil project for minimum of 25 years.
  • Carbon captured via carbon sequestration can be released if you cease to use regenerative management practices.  

 What are the the considerations when choosing a potential soil carbon aggregator?

At Healthy Soils Australia, we are very concerned at the number of companies moving into the space offering soil carbon aggregation and soil carbon testing. And farmers need to do their due diligence when considering who to sign-up with. There are many factors that will determine whether a project is successful and can return the maximum amount of income back to the farmer and be transparent in the process.

  • How are the sequestration rates calculated? Are they based on actual data? Ask to review this information. Is it relevant to your area/enterprise?
  • How many core samples are they going to take in a project area, and what informed that number?
  • What is the experience in reducing variation? And what data is there to back that up? 
  • What is the commission charged? How is that justified?
  • Who is the project proponent?
  • What are the implications of being the project proponent or having an aggregator as the proponent?
  • How long have they been doing this? (being soil carbon)
  • Do they have any soil carbon projects registered?
  • Do they have results from existing soil carbon projects?
  • Do they have the capacity to help finance the project and the practice change? Can they support you the landholder with that project change implementation during the project term? Management is a critical factor for project success…
  • Will they help sell the credits?
  • What systems do they have in place for calculations, data recording and reducing audit costs?
  • Do they use any technology? If so, what is it, what does it do (benefits), is this proven / does it show results in the field?
  • How much science have they put into the technology? Do they really understand it?
  • How much do they know about the art of sequestering carbon? (all else is useless, without these skills)
  • How do you know they will still be around in 25 years? How are they financed?
  • How big is the business and how much expertise is in the business?
  • Do they help end to end or just do a bit of the process? What information and support do they offer landholders to work through the various project processes before baseline activities start?
  • Will they help with registration?
  • Who do they use for baseline testing? What is their (the driller) track record?  Do they have appropriate qualifications, safety and biosecurity protocols?
  • Who does the external lab soil analysis?
  • Who owns the project data (core information, lab results etc)?
  • Have they explained the obligations for implementing a project in the ERF and covered the potential risks (this is part of the Carbon Market Institute - Code of Conduct?)
  •  What are the contractual terms and obligations of the aggregator and the landholder? Is there transparency over who pays what costs and when, full clarity over the project costs (planning, registration, baseline, lab tests and audit)

  • And finally are they a member of the Carbon Market Institute and have signed up to the Code of Conduct?

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