CER Response to AAP story on blue carbon method

An AAP story (published 20 January) on the Australian Government’s new Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) Blue Carbon Method contained factual inaccuracies and false claims by a representative of The Australia Institute (TAI).

The TAI representative’s claim, reported in the AAP story, that the ERF blue carbon method would reward landowners ‘where mangroves are growing back anyway due to sea levels rising’, is false and demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of the method and the ERF.

In fact, the method meets the ERF’s high integrity standards including for additionality-that is, it will deliver additional greenhouse gas abatement to what is occurring in the absence of the scheme.

The blue carbon ERF method requires landowners to take new action to remove or modify a tidal restriction mechanism, such as a seawall, which is preventing surrounding farmland from being inundated with sea water. The sea wall or other barrier must have been in place for 7 years. Once the sea wall or other barrier is removed and sea water returns, mangroves and other vegetation will re-establish, grow and form new ecosystems. This will deliver a range of environmental benefits including reducing emissions, increasing biodiversity, improving water quality and reducing agricultural run-off.

The TAI comments imply that in the absence of a blue carbon project, landholders would be willing to have their land inundated by sea water and would take no action to adapt to rising sea levels, for example by building higher sea walls. This is highly improbable.

The blue carbon method also requires the project developer to provide the Clean Energy Regulator with evidence of the sea wall or other barrier’s existence including hydrological modelling. These are important checks to ensure that landowners are rewarded only for additional emissions abatement resulting from the project activity, that would not occur in the absence of the ERF project.

The blue carbon method was informed by a collaboration of 13 of Australia’s leading coastal wetland scientists and experts from universities across Australia and is underpinned by the latest empirical science and data available. It was developed through a co-design process with technical experts before being assessed by the independent Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee against the scheme’s rigorous offsets integrity standards.

The AAP story also quotes false claims by TAI’s representative on the integrity of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs). The Clean Energy Regulator issues ACCUs in accordance with rules set in legislation. Under the ERF, one ACCU is issued for every tonne of emissions stored or avoided by eligible, registered ERF projects. The ERF’s best practice crediting framework has a well-deserved reputation for integrity.

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