What can I do on farm to earn a carbon credit?
It is important to know that earning a Carbon Credit that you can sell to a polluter does NOT depend on the Emissions Reduction Fund (now Climate Solutions Fund). You can put in a project under a number of approved ‘methods’. What follows is a Plain English Summary of each of the methods which YOU may be able to turn into a project and Earn a Carbon Credit.
For more information on any of them, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Don’t forget – YOU can join with others in a Landcare or Grower or other group to turn a small project into a bigger one.
The 5 most popular available methods farmers can use
1. Earn carbon credits by storing carbon in your soils
It took CFA and others many years to bring a Soil Carbon Method to life – many said it would never be done. Yet, its here. We can participate. We can earn a Carbon Credit to improve our soil’s carbon levels. Some aspects are complex and soil testing is required – but over time things are changing and innovations are happening.
What follows is the Plain English explanation of the “Measurement of Soil Carbon Sequestration in Agricultural Soils”.
We cannot afford to forget that the Soil is the Largest Carbon Sink over which we have control, and ONLY farmers can improve soil carbon on a large scale. Soil carbon sequestration has the potential to help the planet regain its balance and help the landscape regain its health. It is essential for both food security and climate security.
It remains at the forefront of what CFA is passionate about.
The soil carbon method applies to:
- Soil carbon sequestration projects (drawing down carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in soil and vegetation)
- Most Agricultural Systems including cropping, pasture, horticulture and mixed enterprises.
- Relies upon direct measurement of soil carbon to calculate sequestration (rather than a modelled approach).
Soil carbon projects can be carried out on:
- Land that has been used for grazing, cropping (including perennial woody horticulture), bare fallow or any combination of grazing, cropping or bare fallow always provided at least one or more applied over the previous 10 years (baseline period). Records showing this will be required at audit time.
- Land which has soil carbon improvement potential.
- Land which you can sample to at least a 30cm depth.
Eligible activities to improve soil carbon include, but are not limited to:
- converting from cropland to permanent pasture
- changing pasture species composition
- changing grazing patterns
- water ponding activities – where water effect is ‘spread’ over a wider area, effectively increasing effective rainfall and carbon
- pasture cropping
- application of Synthetic Fertilisers
- application of Non-Synthetic Fertilisers. (There are timing requirements around these applications)
- clay spreading and clay delving
- other ‘innovative’ activities that are aimed at improving carbon stocks. These need to be assessed on a case by case basis
- ‘new’ irrigation (some definitions apply)
- compost application – depending on where the ‘waste’ material comes from
- there are some limits on the use of some waste, such as straw. This will depend on the waste stream and its origins and can be assessed on a case by case basis
- the application of amendments containing biochar are allowable under certain circumstances.
Some activities are excluded.
Factors that influence the potential for soil carbon sequestration include:
- soil type
- climate (e.g. rainfall, temperature)
- management history and
- activity or management practice
Please seek expert advice on which activities best suit your project site or submit YOUR innovative ‘carbon sequestration’ process or product to CFA for an informed opinion on its applicability. (CFA has many years experience with known activities to improve soil carbon – please contact us for details.)
Consider the financial costs and potential returns before submitting an application.
The method sets out a process for soil sampling and analysis to measure carbon levels in soil. This is reasonably complex – please ask for further details.
NOTE: This method could be used with other CFI methods, at the same time on the same farm in different areas.
2. Earn carbon credits by planting native trees and shrubs (Native Forest)
This method rewards those who are willing to plant trees and receive payments for the carbon stored in the trees/shrubs. It is highly suited to groups (e.g. Landcare groups – because you can get economies of scale on the buying/planting of the trees) or a Farmer wishing to establish tree plots for Shade/Shelter etc.
The Environmental Plantings Method involves:
Establishing a permanent planting of forests of native (to the local area) tree species on cleared land. Environmental plantings increases the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by sequestering (absorbing and storing) the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2), as carbon, in the trees and tree debris.
You must plant the trees or shrubs and the plantings must:
- have the potential to attain a crown cover of at least 20 per cent across the area of land and a height of at least two metres on that land
- be established by either direct seeding or planting, and
In the five years prior to the project’s establishment, the project land must:
- have been non-forested,
- have been used for grazing, pasture management, cropping, nature conservation or settlement, or no use, and
- not had woody plants removed, other than known weed species that were required to be removed by law.
Note: Plants cannot be removed for use as fencing. Livestock cannot be grazed in the project area for three years following the establishment of planting, or at any other time if this would prevent the growth of trees. Sequestration is calculated using a calculator supplied by the Government.
For more information get in contact with us.
3. Earn carbon credits by managing stock to allow native forest to regrow
This method differs to the Environmental Plantings method, as it involves managing or removing external pressures that prevent vegetation regrowth from occurring.
In some of the more extensive agricultural areas in Australia, where land size is relatively large and where often productivity has been falling – due to goat or other activities combined with drought and declining terms of trade – this method has been highly successful in turning around Farmers’ fortunes.
It is mainly suitable for larger areas – from about 5000 hectares. Farmers are paid to change livestock management to allow the native forest to regrow. ERF contracts can be for up to 10 years and a project can have a life of 25 years or 100 years.
For further information, or to talk it over, please call Louisa on 0417 280 540.
Human induced regeneration of an even aged native forest involves:
- Establishment of permanent native forests.
- Managing or removing external pressures that prevent regrowth from occurring. Mainly this will mean the removal of stock pressure.
- The method applies to projects where land where regrowth has been suppressed for at least 10 years. You need evidence of this (e.g. Stock records).
- You can get an income for 25 years.
- You can have it as a 100 year project or 25 years. If you choose 25 years, they will reduce your carbon credits by 20%.
- Livestock / grazing is permitted in the project area in certain circumstances. They must not prevent the forest from achieving its height.
- Trees may be thinned for ecological purposes after project commencement.
Human-assisted regeneration of forest works by:
- keeping livestock out of the area
- managing the timing and the extent of grazing
- managing, in a humane manner, feral animals
- managing plants that are not native to the project area
- ceasing mechanical or chemical suppression activities.
4. Earn Carbon Credits by reducing methane in your Cattle Herd
In the Beef Herd Improvement method, you can be rewarded for reducing the methane coming from your cattle. It is suited to larger herds, but could also be very good for a Cattle Group who believe they are turning off cattle earlier or have some other improvements which will reduce the methane from the herd.
Please note that the ‘action’ to reduce methane is not restricted – so if you have some new technology – go for it. You must use the Beef Herd Calculator. For further information or to talk it over, contact Louisa on 0417 280 540.
Some examples of the Beef Herd Improvement method are:
- Improvement in the live weight gain for age enables target weights to be reached earlier.
- Supplementary feed.
- Install fencing on rangeland properties, (grazing management).
- Sell larger numbers of cattle to a finisher.
- Other activities allowed so long as they can be shown to have an effect on emissions. Better feed, etc.
- Does not prohibit changes in herd composition. Age etc.
The mechanics of the Beef Herd Improvement method are:
- Liveweight gain values are used to derive emissions intensity values.
- Emissions are related to feed intake per day, the duration of that feed intake and the protein content and DM digestibility of the feed. These factors are incorporated in abatement calculations, and where a change in diet is a project activity, details of the change are required as an input to calculations.
- Liveweight and LWG Liveweight can be done by weighing, or where this is not practical, through verifiable alternative means.
- Need records from 3 of the last 7 years (don’t have to be sequential) But as close to date of application as possible. LWG must be greater than zero.
- Majority of feed has to be pastures.
- Need some evidence that the ‘new’ practice will reduce emissions.
- Must be able to identify members of each group of animals as defined by, the herd, the livestock class and the date of entry into the herd.
5. Earn carbon credits by reducing nitrous oxide emissions from irrigated cotton
This method is available ONLY to Irrigated Cotton producers. Nitrogen Fertiliser releases a potent ‘greenhouse gas’ when applied (nitrous oxide). Reducing this release can earn carbon credits. You’ll need to change your fertilizer regime while maintaining yield.
- Reduce synthetic nitrogen fertilizer rates
- OR change timing /rate/application method
- OR They may add an organic alternative
- OR Other methods to improve nitrogen fertilizer efficiency.
If you have other ideas on reduction of nitrous oxide, you are certainly able to implement these, so long as you can show a reduction in nitrous oxide.
How It Works
After your ‘new’ application rates are audited, the amount of nitrous oxide reductions are calculated. The difference between your ‘historic’ emissions from nitrogen fertilizer and the ‘new’ level of emissions becomes your emissions reduction and can be converted to a ‘carbon credit’.
You need to have records of past N application rates, keep records of the changed management activity, and be audited.
Carbon Farming Newsletter
Would you like to receive regular news and alerts about key developments in Carbon Farming direct to your inbox?
Sign up now and receive a copy of the original Carbon Farming Handbook – absolutely FREE!