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New Blue Carbon Method Released For Review

A Draft of the new Blue Carbon Method has been released by the Australian Government for review.

The Australian Government is inviting input on a draft blue carbon method for the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). The ERF incentivises Australian businesses to cut greenhouse gases and undertake activities that store carbon. This is the first ERF method for blue carbon projects.

Blue carbon is the storage of organic carbon in coastal wetland and marine ecosystems.
A blue carbon project achieves abatement by reintroducing tidal flows to:

  • increase the carbon stored in soil and vegetation
  • avoid emissions from soils as they are rewetted, or as freshwater wetlands are returned to saline wetlands.

Blue carbon is one of 5 priority methods being developed in 2021.

Read the draft method and provide feedback.

Submissions are welcome until 10 November 2021.

Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary (SA Department for Environment and Water)

ICIN facilitated a workshop about the Draft Blue Carbon (Tidal Restoration) method with its members and Native Title bodies from around Australia for the Clean Energy Regulator last Friday. The method involves calculating the carbon benefit to the coastal floodplain zone from either partially or wholly removing an artificial barrier designed to interrupt the natural tidal flow, such as a bund or sea wall.

ICIN has been working together with the Clean Energy Regulator to improve opportunities for Indigenous groups to have a say on the development of new methods.

The workshop included presentations by:

Ingrid Cripps of the Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, who provided an overview of the process for method development prioritisation:

  • The Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reductions priorities new methods for development with the support of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.
  • Methods are prioritised considering: potential uptake, cost of estimating emissions reductions, potential adverse impacts, suitability of other government measures and alignment with broader government priorities.
  • Once prioritised, the Clean Energy Regulator has a KPI to develop methods within 12 months of work starting on them.

Soraya McGinley of the Clean Energy Regulator, who provided an overview of the blue carbon method:

  • The eligible activity under this method is removing or modifying a tidal restriction mechanism to introduce tidal flow to previously completely or partially drained coastal wetland ecosystems. Examples of tidal restriction mechanisms include a sea wall, bund, levee, drain, or tidal gate.
  • A blue carbon project achieves carbon abatement by increasing the carbon stored in soil and vegetation, and by avoiding emissions from soils as they are rewetted, or from freshwater wetlands being returned to saline wetlands.

Professor Catherine Lovelock of University of Queensland, who provided an overview of the opportunities for blue carbon projects:

  • The key characteristics of land that may be suitable for blue carbon projects are where low-elevation land was previously a coastal wetland before tidal flows were altered. This land may currently be grazed or used for sugarcane production, for example.

Jenny Bradley of the Clean Energy Regulator, who provided an overview of key considerations for native title holders:

  • Project proponents must have the legal right to conduct blue carbon projects and obtain eligible interest holder consent. This includes obtaining legal right from exclusive possession native title holders and eligible interest holder consent from determined native title holders.
  • Where exclusive possession native title has been registered, a registered native title body corporate may maintain legal right and run the project themselves or engage an agent, or choose to transfer legal right to a new project proponent.  
  • Blue carbon projects are subject to 25 or 100 year permanence obligations, which run with the land.
  • Blue carbon projects offer a wide range of co-benefits, including of cultural significance.

During the workshop, it was noted:

  • The project proponent must maintain legal right for the duration of the permanence period for a project.
  • The hydrological assessment that project proponents must undertake for project registration will identify predicted changes in legal interests due to the project activity.
  • The Regulator recommends that any legal arrangements, which provide the project proponent with legal right also include a process whereby legal right will be granted for any areas where legal right changes.
  • Given that new native title determinations might be made throughout the permanence period, project proponents are encouraged to consult with native title claimants to ensure they are able to maintain the legal right to the project.
  • While the Clean Energy Regulator does not currently provide funding, funding may be available through state and territory governments. For example, the Queensland Government’s land restoration fund supports carbon projects that deliver additional co-benefits.
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