I’ve seen lots of news around Australian carbon credit units not being credible, should I still buy them?
Recently there has been a lot of news surrounding Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs). This has led to uncertainty within the market, with credits from some projects trading at lower price points than previously. This news has brought up concerns among organisations wanting to take climate action, with growing confusion on what type of carbon credits might be best to purchase.
Despite the recent news around ACCUs, it is important to note that there are still some ACCU projects that are robust and result in real emission reductions. Organisations looking to meet internal or external targets including those for carbon neutrality, should still consider ACCUs as part of their carbon strategy as this will be required for Climate Active certification from 2023 onwards.
This article will provide some background information on ACCUs as well as insights on project types that have proven to be credible, reliable, and transparent.
On 1 July 2022, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy announced the Terms of Reference for an Independent Review of ACCUs. This review will investigate the integrity of ACCUs created under the Emission Reduction Fund (ERF). Advice will be provided to the government by December 2022.
Carbon credit methodologies which are currently being reviewed for integrity include:
- Human Induced Regeneration
- Carbon Capture and Storage
- Avoided Deforestation
- Landfill Waste Gas
In order to ensure that ACCUs remain seen as strong and credible, the review will further investigate the concerns brought up around the governance and legislative requirements surrounding the ACCU scheme. The integrity of the aforementioned methods will be reviewed as well as the broader scheme.
Overall, the review should provide insights into how far carbon projects are supporting positive environment, social, and economic outcomes, opportunities to maximise non-carbon benefits of projects (co-benefits), and how ACCUs will be required under the Climate Active scheme from FY2023 onward.
Many organisations use carbon credits as part of their emission reduction strategy. When selecting carbon credits, co-benefits from projects are a large consideration. Australian organisations have traditionally favoured ACCUs as they support local project developers and have local impacts.
Many of these projects are robust and of high quality, resulting in real emission reductions. Without the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), these projects would not be viable. As such, carbon credits are an important mechanism to support local emission reduction projects and communities.
As progress towards net zero emissions is made, carbon credits can support interim organisational goals. So which ACCU project types should organisations consider?
Carbon Integrity Principles.
The International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance (ICROA) has developed a Code of Best Practice to define international best practice for carbon management. As part of this, all carbon credits must meet a set of integrity principles. These are as follows:
|Real||Emission reductions are real and actually occurring|
|Measureable||Emission reductions have been measured with real data|
|Permanent||Projects result in the permanent avoidance, removal, or reduction of carbon emissions from the atmosphere|
|Additional||Projects would not have otherwise occurred without incentive of credits|
|Independently Verified||Projects are verified by an external and qualified third-party|
|Unique||Projects are not able to create credits on multiple registries and each credit is assigned a serial number and only retired once|
Carbon Credit Project Types to Choose.
1. Energy Efficiency Projects
Energy efficiency projects are those that include the upgrade and replacement of energy consuming technology with more efficient models. Industrial and commercial sites installing energy efficient equipment can reduce the total amount of energy consumed at these sites. By reducing the total amount of energy consumed (including stationary fuels or electricity), these projects directly reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions.
Projects registered under the Industrial and commercial emissions reduction (ICER) method, previously known as the Industrial electricity and fuel efficiency (IEFE) method are able to create ACCUs from energy efficiency projects. The ICER methodology has been developed with best practices and has rigid reporting requirements.
Projects registering under the ICER method must be able to estimate baseline emissions of existing equipment and compare this with either:
- Emissions calculated from measured fuel or electricity use; or
- Modelled emissions which considers variables that impact emissions.
Emission models require complex statistical and measurement verification techniques and must be developed using regression analysis. All models must be the statistical requirements of the ICER method.
The measurement and modelling approaches used in the ICER method are further consistent with the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol. This allows for the method to be robust and aligned to international standards.
As projects developed under this methodology use actual or modelled data which has undergone strict statistical validation, emission reductions calculated from these projects can be considered to be robust.
With the use of actual data or modelled data which has undergone strict statistical validation, emission reductions from these projects are quantified with data that is robust and real. Therefore, ACCUs from ICER projects meet the carbon credit integrity requirements and should be considered a good option for organisations.
2. Savanna Burning Projects
Savanna burning projects utilise traditional land practices to reduce the fuel load available later in the fire season. By practising early season burning, fewer emissions are released into the atmosphere. This is because fires in the early season are cooler, more patchy and therefore burn less country. Moreover, early season fires reduce the total area burnt and the frequency of fires as the fuel load is reduced.
Savanna fires release methane and nitrous oxide emissions into the atmosphere. Through the use of traditional patchwork burning, emissions from the early season fires release fewer emissions into the atmosphere. Avoided emissions are calculated using the Savanna Burning Abatement Tool (SavBAT) and are created under the Savanna fire management – emissions avoidance methodology.
The SavBAT tool automates the GIS processes and calculations required to estimate the net abatement from the early season fires. The tool uses monthly fire scar maps from the North Australian and Rangelands Fire Information System alongside project data. Projects must meet all of the eligibility requirements as set out in the methodology.
As savanna burning projects use indigenous traditional knowledge, these projects further provide great social outcomes. By engaging with local Indigenous communities, environmental outcomes are achieved by combining traditional ecological knowledge with scientific information. Other social outcomes include the reinvigoration of social and cultural traditions, protection of cultural sites, and the increase of employment opportunities within Indigenous communities.
Through participation under this methodology Traditional Owners are able to generate an income. This can be reinvested into land management practices to complement funding from other sources.
Australian Savanna Burning projects are now being investigated as case studies for implementation in other areas around the world. The success of these projects both from an environmental and social perspective, has given rise to the benefits of reducing late season burning.
Overall, Savanna Burning projects result in avoided emissions and also provide great co-benefits. For organisations looking for projects with local impacts, these projects are robust and provide a great option.
For organisations on their climate journey, an internal carbon strategy is becoming an important tool. As changes come through in both the local and international markets, it will be imperative for organisations to have a strategy in place to mitigate against changes. Moreover, as the cost of carbon rises, having an internal price of carbon will allow organisations to hedge against future price increases.
ACCUs will continue to play a role within these markets and within organisation emission reduction strategies. Outlining quality and other important metrics in a carbon strategy, can allow organisations to be confident with their carbon purchases. Not all carbon credits are created equal and choosing those that are credible, reliable, and transparent is important.
Ecovantage is an industry leader in climate solutions and supports organisations on their journey to 100% renewable energy, carbon neutrality, and net zero. Our Decarbonisation Unit can provide the expertise required to support your organisation develop an internal carbon strategy. Contact our Decarbonisation Specialists to find out more.