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Method stacking is coming. Here’s what it means for your business

At GreenCollar, we don’t believe in setting easy goals. It’s not enough to help establish environmental markets projects on over 200 Australian farms – we want to see them on every Australian farm. That might seem ambitious. But with the Australian Government announcing that it will soon implement the blueprint for integrated carbon farming methods, we’re all one step closer to achieving that objective.

Integrated carbon farming methods might sound like a mouthful. But the concept is actually (relatively) simple. Until now, land managers looking to participate in the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) have mostly been forced into a ‘one property, one activity, one method’ approach to carbon abatement. This encouraged them to apply a single carbon abatement method – say, Avoided Deforestation – to their land, for which they received Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs). Technically, there was nothing to stop them from applying other carbon farming methods to their property. But there were no incentives, either. In fact, there were multiple disincentives.

Take a grazier running a Soil Carbon method on a standard 600-hectare farm. Over the course of the project’s 25-year life, that grazier would need to generate 269 monthly reports for a return of around 25,000 ACCUs. If that same grazier added an additional method – say, Beef Herding – they’d double their reporting requirements, but only pocket an extra 12% in ACCUs. Hardly bang for their buck.

As a result, there has been no real impetus for land managers to maximise their environmental practices and realise the true carbon potential of their land. The status quo encourages managers to participate in the abatement method with the highest return, and ignore the others. (Or pursue them at their own cost.)

But now, change is on the horizon. In August of this year, the ​​Carbon Market Institute’s Landscape Taskforce (co-chaired by Dr Jenny Sinclair, GreenCollar’s Chief Scientist) submitted an Integrated Farm method to the Federal Government. Developed in consultation with agricultural, technology, financial, and conservation organisations, the blueprint detailed the benefits of integrated carbon farming methods to both land managers and the carbon market.

Put simply, the Integrated Farm method will allow land managers to employ multiple carbon abatement methods across a single property, making the most of its carbon farming potential while keeping the administrative burden to a minimum. (ie. No matter how many methods you use, you’d only ever have to fill out one batch of paperwork. But the extra credits will be all yours.) This practice, also known as ‘method stacking’, would enable more land managers and Traditional Owners to participate in the carbon market, and increase the environmental, social and economic outcomes of each property.

On October 1, 2021, the Australian Government announced its support for formally developing method stacking as part of a suite of new priorities to be developed by the Clean Energy Regulator over the next 12 months. The method is expected to be implemented in 2023.

The announcement heralds a new era in the Australian carbon market. It will also let ACCUs more accurately reflect what’s already happening on the ground, granting carbon credits where carbon credits are due – namely, for every carbon abatement method used, not just the first one you happened to register for.

Along with the government’s other suite of changes, which include savanna fire management and carbon capture use and storage, method stacking will enable more land managers and Traditional Owners to adopt more and more carbon farming methods, further shifting us towards net zero while delivering a significant boost to carbon credit supply for the market.

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