Measurement of soil carbon sequestration in agricultural systems

Closed 25 Jan 2018

Opened 25 Jan 2018

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The climate change function transferred to our department from the Department of the Environment and Energy on 1 February 2020.

Finalised method determination

The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative—Measurement of Soil Carbon Sequestration in Agricultural Systems) Methodology Determination 2018 was made on January 25 2018.

Project applications to implement the Methodology Determination may be made to the Clean Energy Regulator.

About this method

The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative— Measurement of Soil Carbon Sequestration in Agricultural Systems) Methodology Determination 2018 (method):

  • provides an opportunity for landholders and businesses to earn Australian Carbon Credit Units by managing their land in a way that could lead to an increase in soil organic carbon
  • sets out instructions for undertaking projects and estimating the resulting abatement

Who could benefit?

The method allows farmers and landholders to earn carbon credits by sequestering soil carbon under pasture, crops, horticultural or mixed farming systems, and aims to allow flexibility for land management practices to be tailored to the specific region and farm, and to respond to changing market forces and climate during the crediting and permanence periods. The benefits associated with increasing soil carbon could include higher crop yields, better pasture, reduced erosion and improved soil health.

How does it work?

Soil carbon can be stored in agricultural systems by increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil. This occurs when management practices either increase the amount of biomass (such as plant material) that is incorporated into the soil and/or reduce the amount of organic matter that is released from soils (for example, by reducing soil disturbance).

Site specific factors such as soil type, climate and management history all influence the potential for soil carbon sequestration (the increase in soil carbon stocks over time). There is no guarantee that any one or more of the eligible activities chosen by landholders will build soil carbon at any particular project site. Project proponents should seek expert advice on the management actions that will best suit their project area.

Within broad parameters, landholders have a choice of which land management activities to implement to build soil carbon but must carry out one or more of the listed eligible management activities. The eligible management activities must be new or materially different from the land management activity conducted during the 10 year baseline period, and must reasonably be expected to sequester carbon in the soil. Some activities, such as permanent destocking and addition of coal or coal based products, are specifically excluded.

Landholders must measure the soil carbon stocks at the project site before the new management actions are implemented, and at regular intervals during the project to estimate carbon sequestration.

Emissions from other sources that have changed as a result of the project such as emissions from livestock, tillage events and applications of lime or synthetic fertiliser must be factored in to the abatement calculations.

Projects are subject to permanence obligations. This means the project must be maintained for a nominated period of either 100 or 25 years. Projects nominating a 25-year permanence period under this method are subject to a 20 per cent discount on the number of credits they receive.

Key features of the new method

The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative—Measurement of Soil Carbon Sequestration in Agricultural Systems) Methodology Determination 2018 contains elements adapted from the two existing soil carbon methods. Key features of the new method include:

  • an improved soil sampling strategy to reduce uncertainty of soil carbon estimates, supporting the participation of a wider range of production systems
  • an increased range of eligible farming systems including cropping, grazing and horticultural production systems
  • allowing the use of soil amendments containing biochar and accounting for other additives that may contain carbon, including clay
  • an additional measurement option allowing for the ability to estimate carbon stocks using in-field or laboratory sensors and associated models in addition to combustion techniques
  • a ten year baseline period
  • use of a land management strategy, to be developed or reviewed by an independent person

Eligibility and restrictions

The method sets out the eligibility requirements including eligible land and eligible activities. It also sets out the detail of any restricted activities, such as application of coal and complete de-stocking.

Monitoring, reporting and auditing

This method requires monitoring of soil carbon and emission sources to ensure that the activities are undertaken in accordance with the method.

It is important to keep project records because they will be used to calculate the abatement that has been achieved by the project. Projects are required to submit a report to the Clean Energy Regulator every six months to five years.

Projects must be audited by a registered greenhouse and energy (NGERS) auditor. A list of registered auditors is available on the Clean Energy Regulator website.

Development of this method


  • Emissions Reduction Fund


  • Climate Change
  • Emissions Reduction Fund