Creating a carbon account for your business

The Australian red meat and livestock industry has set a target to be carbon neutral by 2030 (CN30).

This means in 10 years’ time, Australian beef, lamb and goat production will make no net release of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere – but how can producers make a start on working towards this target in their own businesses?

An important first step is to create a carbon account to determine what your net GHG emissions position is, so you can identify strategies to reduce these emissions and improve carbon storage on-farm.

MLA, Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise Food Leaders Australia, and Integrity Ag & Environment Pty Ltd recently ran a carbon accounting workshop for producers to help them generate a carbon account for their own enterprise.

The workshop will be used to develop a carbon accounting training manual (due for release later this year), as well as case studies to help producers get on the front foot and maintain or improve their productivity while reducing emissions.

Here, MLA’s CN30 Manager Margaret Jewell and workshop presenter Steve Wiedemann of Integrity Ag & Environment answer three questions producers may have about carbon accounting.

What is carbon accounting?

Carbon accounting is the process producers can use to determine their annual net GHG emissions position.

There are two main elements of a carbon account:

Annual GHG emissions

These come from:

  • carbon dioxide from fossil fuels used for electricity, transport and inputs such as fertiliser and supplementary feed
  • nitrous oxide from fertiliser application and livestock manure
  • enteric methane produced when ruminants digest food.

Carbon stocks on-farm

These stocks are of carbon which has been removed from the atmosphere and stored in vegetation and soils.

Why is carbon accounting important?

Calculating baseline carbon emissions and stored carbon is an essential first step for producers who are considering opportunities arising from low or zero carbon red meat, such as carbon-neutral branded products.

A carbon account can be used in on-farm decision making and sets a benchmark to show progress over time.

Just as financial accounting aids financial decision making and reporting, carbon accounting aids decision making and reporting around how carbon is – or is not – used on-farm.

How can I create a carbon account?

The University of Melbourne has created a free spreadsheet for producers to enter their GHG emissions and calculate the emissions component of their carbon account.

Download the carbon accounting calculator form:

The carbon storage component can be generated by measuring or modelling land using spatial data as well as data collected as part of any soil carbon methodologies.

Three tips for carbon accounting

  1. Accurate data collection is essential, so make sure you’re collecting the information required to create a carbon account such as:
  • different classes of livestock
  • weaning/turn-off rates
  • live weight gains
  • livestock numbers
  • inputs and outputs such as fuel, fertiliser and fodder.
  • Know the different land and vegetation types across your property so you can easily identify areas to build carbon stocks.
  • Identify information gaps early on so you can find the answers and build a strong foundation for your carbon neutral plan.

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