Comparing methodologies - how to find which one works for you?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Further to 'methodology alert' post, there will be plenty of media about tree methodologies going around - as the various companies who have a methodology attempt to lock you into theirs. But how do you compare, how do you find out which one is best for you? 

At the moment, you would need to contact each company, get their requirements that you must meet, and estimated sequestration/dollar return. Don't forget that at the moment trees, and yes soil sequestration as well, are long term commitments. 

Ask the question - who looks after the project after 30 years? We will be looking at each of them as well, and give some factual information on what they offer. Keep your eyes on the website -

Understanding Carbon Credits

Monday, July 16, 2012
Understanding the way a 'Carbon Credit' can result in good for the climate/atmosphere is sometimes hard to visualise. Here is a great visual to help out! 

Please remember however that the VCS system they are talking about here, is NOT the same rules as the 
Australian Carbon Farming Initiative. 

For instance: 
  • Under the CFI the life of the project is 100 years, not 30 years. IN fact, this 'permanence' requirement of the CFI is one thing that we would like to see modified. WE believe the job sequestration will need to do IS over the next 30 years - or we'll all just have to somehow 'adapt' to the increased variability. The Opposition has said it will look at this aspect of the CFI. You need to keep in mind however, that the integrity of our Australian credits is critical to the trade, so you don't want to dilute the integrity aspects. 
  • The SFM would NOT under the rules be able to buy up good pasture land here. Overseas they are clearing forest for agriculture, as we did in the past. Here there are several hurdles to do with NRM plans, Catchment plans etc. to ensure we don't put trees on good agricultural land. 

New methodologies added for public view

Sunday, July 15, 2012
As reported in a newsletter not long ago... If you don't like a current methodology, wait two minutes and a new one will turn up! 

See the Department of Climate Change's recent developments for 4, yes 4 new meths on public view. Now, don't forget, 'on public view' does NOT equal 'approved'. In fact, it is relatively easy to get a methodology on to public view. That doesn't mean that it's easy to write one, but if you have the ability to talk 'meth', and fill in the document, you can navigate so that you are able to get on public view quickly. Why is this good? Because it puts a line in the sand if you have a product/process that might either sequester or reduce emissions. 

This is evidenced in the meth done by Groundworks (who ever heard of them before now?) They are simply saying they have a new way to plant the approved tree meth, and voila they are on public view! With their 'Ecoblanket' there for all to look at. Don't forget, you can have your say on any of the meths on public view - if you have the time, patience and speak 'meth'. 

However, I am assured that ALL meths will be put through the considerable rigour of the DOIC process straight after the public viewing, taking all the feedback into consideration. We are about to re-submit our soil carbon methodology, so hopefully we'll get to be on public view soon as well. As soil carbon sequestration still has many sceptics, expect some rigorous feedback when that happens! 

I'll explain a couple of the meths in more detail next newsletter... In the meantime, get used to looking at them and understanding the language.  

Commitment from farmers 'significant' or too much?

Saturday, July 14, 2012
The Government understands that it is asking a lot of farmers wanting to take part in the Carbon Farming Initiative. The commitment asked of farmers is significant, to ensure that credits generated by the scheme meet the strictest global standards, according to parliamentary secretary for climate change, Mark Dreyfus. "Australia comes to this with a very high reputation for scientific integrity, for regulatory integrity. We're expecting that Australian carbon credits will be in world demand for those reasons.” he said. Australian farmers will benefit from having to meet high standards to earn carbon credits. To earn credits for native revegetation projects, for example, that land must be locked up for 100 years.
But will the enthusiastic buyers find any growers willing to take the risk of signing a contract that lasts longer than their lifetime? Will the rules that make CFI Carbon Credits so attractive to buyers have the reverse effect on sellers?Could it be that locking up land is overkill, especially in the environmental plantings methodology?
  1. The methodology requires a planting density that reaches only 20% ‘crown cover’ at maturity, leaving 80% of the project area grassy vegetation that will need grazing to avoid baring of the soil due to desertification (rank and dead grasses stifle fresh grasses emerging).
  2. The carbon in the understory is not factored into the sequestration equation anyway.
  3. Occasional grazing can reduce fire loads.
  4. The methodology itself makes allowances for occasional grazing from 3 years after establishment.
Carbon Faming is not about locking productive land up. It is about making the land more productive by integrating trees and shrubs into the farm design. A change in practice is more attractive to a farmer if it has a production benefit.
But Mark Dreyfus says there is some good news: farmers will not face financial penalties if the credits they've earned are destroyed by a bushfire or drought. Now you're talking.

Australian Government shifts on Additionality?

Friday, July 13, 2012
The Australian Government is determined to avoid penalising landholders who have been managing their land well. The Savanna Burning Methodology allows landholders to choose a date to set the Baseline so they won't be excluded. Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change Mark Dreyfus told ABC Radio's PM program on 3 July: "land managers can get credit for all their good work in the future, without being penalised for any good work they've done in the past." This means that landholders will be able to earn carbon credits in future for land management practices they adopted before the start date of a recognised project.  

The precedent has been set that "good work" should be recognised: "As part of this methodology a baseline, which is set with reference to averaging annual emissions over the 10 years up to the project, and if they've already been doing recent pollution reduction burning, then that will be taken into account and the average will be set from the period immediately before the recent pollution reduction burning that they've been doing." The Methodology allows landholders to go back up to 6 years to start the 10-year average emissions estimation to set the Baseline. 

The Methodology for Savanna Burning puts it this way:
"A project’s baseline will be the estimated average annual CH4 and N2O emissions from the project area in the 10 years immediately preceding project commencement. Where strategic fire management has been implemented within the project area for a period of at least one year but no more than six years immediately prior to project commencement, the baseline emissions can be estimated as the 10 years preceding this period of fire management."

It remains to be seen if this provision can be used in a non-savanna methodology.

Real regulations needed for a Global solution

Thursday, July 12, 2012
In a piece reported by Econews today, China is laying the groundwork for their Carbon Market. Wow, this blows a complete hole in the 'rest of the world is doing nothing' argument! China is the rest of the world! Well, practically anyway! 

If you go to the article you will see some very similar words to the ones being used for our market: “The GHG emission reductions shall come from specific projects and be real, measurable, and additional.”

This is the language used to give buyers confidence they are getting what they are paying for! Given that we are ALL doing this to achieve overall reductions in GHG, so we have a planet to hand over to our grandkids, it is important that the world does maintain very strict rules and regulations. It's a pain when you are trying to make these 'methodologies' embedded in the Carbon Farming Initiative Process work, but necessary. 

For instance, I was talking to a Canadian aggregator yesterday. He aggregates (brings together) pools of soil carbon credits. And sells them - he's about to put a multi million dollar deal together. However, he says the Canadian Government has NOT insisted on the highest integrity in soil carbon, and as a result he believes the floor will drop out of that market. He welcomes Australia's approach.

He will be our International Speaker at this years Carbon Farming Conference and Expo, so you will be able to hear all about it.

Don't call it Carbon Farming

Thursday, July 12, 2012
They destocked Henbury Station and they’ve locked all 500,000ha of it up, and called it carbon farming.  It is the most high-profile example of ‘carbon farming’ but it sends all the wrong messages. Call it “Conservation” or a National Park, but it is not farming. 

It is simplistic and wrong to say that locking country up will protect it from degradation. The relationship between animals and vegetation is symbiotic when managed for balance. Grazing animals need plants for food. Plants need animals to graze them to prevent loss of groundcover and desertification which occurs when grasses die and oxidise. Plants need animals to disturb the soils around them and incorporate their carbon-rich dung and nitrogen-rich urine into it. Grazing can reduce fuel loads, reducing the severity of wildfires. And grazing is the only way that we can produce food in the rangelands. But not just any old grazing. 

Balance must be achieved by exposing the plants to grazing only to the point where the plant can easily recover. The roots of the plant need the leaves to be trimmed because they die back and then they return downwards. In each direction - coming and going - the soil microbes are excited by the food that the roots give them. Decomposing roots are partyfood for bacteria, etc. Roots returning by pushing down through the soil release delicious nectar that is also partyfood. The more partyfood we can offer soil microbes, the more they will manufacture the soil carbon which builds fertility, soil stability, water efficiency, biodiversity, and resilience. Destocking is a tactical tool, but it is not a strategy. It is not the presence of animals that is the problem; it is the recovery time allowed to the plant to deploy its leaves for maximum growth and maximum extraction of carbon from the atmosphere through the unique action of photosynthesis.

Soil Carbon baseline ALERT

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Farmers involved in Action On The Ground projects which have soil carbon measurement as a key objective should ask their scientific adviser about the baseline measurement methodology you will be using. The requirement that the farm-scale or paddock-scale measurement method used for Action On The Ground be consistent with that used in the SCaRP is confusing. “SCaRP was not set up to baseline carbon contents on paddocks or farms”, Dr Jeff Baldock wrote in a paper published late last year. 

 So where does that leave you? Ask your scientific adviser the following questions: 
  1. Do we have a soil carbon baseline methodology that meets the Department's requirements? 
  2. Do we know if the baseline measurements that we take for this project will be useful for measuring carbon sequestered that we can put towards gaining offsets should they become available? 
  3. Will our involvement in this project disqualify us from earning soil carbon offsets in future because of the Additionality Integrity Standard? What can we do to avoid this outcome?

Global Warming good for soil carbon traders

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
GOOD NEWS for farmers who choose to trade soil carbon offsets: Global Warming will increase soil carbon sequestration rates for decades ahead, according to a recent research results summarized by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change ( As the CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase, most plants increase photosynthetic rates to produce greater amounts of biomass. This leads to greater inputs of carbon to the soil from roots, root exudates and dead above-ground plant material. It’s not just about more biomass, either. CO2 enrichment typically reduces decomposition rates of dead plant materials present in soils. This phenomenon often leads to greater soil carbon sequestration. 

Scientists have concluded that, in spite of predicted increases in temperature, this stimulation of the below-ground carbon sequestration could exert a negative feed-back on the current rise of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Finally, with more carbon in soils, soil structure and fertility should be improved, providing a positive feedback that further enhances plant growth and soil carbon sequestration.

Now you can afford to increase soil carbon

Sunday, July 08, 2012
One of the biggest puzzles about soil carbon has been solved. In 2008, 5 scientists published a short paper called "The Hidden Cost of Carbon Sequestration"*. Many people thought it shot a big hole in any prospect of Soil Carbon trading. Effectively, it made the claim that a farmer could not afford to increase carbon levels in their soils because humus ties up nitrogen and other nutrients needed by plants to grow. The farmer would have to buy extra fertiliser to replace that stolen by the humus and it would cost more to do that than soil carbon trading would pay. 

The lead author told me that, based on his paper's argument, the increases in soil C achieved by leading carbon farmers were doubtful. "

I am aware of Colin Seis's remarkable achievements, and I have wondered 
how he has succeeded in increasing soil organic matter in the topsoil by
 2%. If that increase is largely humus, then it is likely to contain, in 
organically bound form, about 2 tonne/ha of N, 400 kg/ha of P and 300
kg/ha of S. I puzzle about where such large amounts could have come


John Passioura". 

Well, now science has solved the puzzle. Free-living nitrogen-fixing bacteria are supplying 75% of the N a 2t/ha cereal wheat paddock in the Mallee uses, according to the Victorian DPI. A 12-year trial found bacteria are delivering 35kg/ha each year. In an intensive cropping regime the organic carbon level rose from 0.80% to 1% between 1997 and 2011. Cropping is usually a carbon-exporting activity. The CSIRO's Dr Margaret Roper has published a review of literature that estimates that the theoretical potential of the contribution of these bacteria is up to 150kgN/ha. 

The DPI's Ron Sonogan reported the Mallee trials: "Assuming a 0.2% increase in OC each year, this may well have added another 120kg/ha of nitrogen to the system over 14 years." The widespread shift to no-till and stubble-retention over the last 20 years has increased the carbon inputs which are a key driver for bacterial N2 fixation. Estimates of fixation were set more than 20 years ago and are therefore in need of up-dating, say the scientists. Australian Farm Journal reported the findings earlier this year, proving that the nutrients incorporated in humus don't have to come out of a bag. 

 *GRDC Groundcover Magazine Issue 76, p.19 (2008)