Climate Friendly welcomes ongoing scrutiny and evidence-based analysis of Australia’s carbon farming methods. Regular reviews of methods and carbon farming projects promote transparency, accountability and ensure high integrity carbon farming methods and markets.
“As a profit for purpose organisation, Climate Friendly is deeply committed to delivering genuine abatement. In 2020, we achieved our first target of 20MT of carbon abatement. We are now scaling up with a goal to deliver 100MT of carbon abatement by 2025. Through continued innovation and with high ambitions we aim to make a material contribution to a net zero, resilient Australia with thriving rural communities,” said Skye Glenday, Co-CEO of Climate Friendly.
We note the recent analysis report by Dr Stephen Beare and Professor Raymond Chambers to investigate concerns raised about the human-induced regeneration (HIR) method, released by the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee on 5 November. The ERAC statement is available here, HIR study here, peer review report here. The study found that that there is strong statistical evidence that management changes implemented in HIR projects lead to regeneration of forest.
This statement provides Climate Friendly’s response to subsequent commentary on the report which has suggested that HIR projects are being issued credits for forests that were present when the project started. The suggestion has been made based on review of analysis in Table 2.2 & 2.3 in the Beare & Chambers report.
We note that the Beare & Chambers Report analysed land classification data in HIR projects located in NSW and QLD, with the project area classified into three types of pixels: open; woody; or forest. Each hectare of area is represented by around 16 individual ‘classified pixels’, which each cover an area of 25m x 25m. A pixel is called ‘forest’ if it is assessed as containing more than 20% tree canopy. Critical for this discussion, for an area to be determined as “forest area” in Australia there must be multiple “forest pixels” side by side that together form an area greater than 0.2 hectares. Areas that only contain 10-11% of forest pixels per hectare, as per Beare & Chambers analysis, do not constitute a forest, but instead contain occasional tree cover. It is therefore a misrepresentation to claim that carbon estimation areas in HIR projects wrongly included forests based on a review of the data in this report.
Rather, residual trees scattered through regenerating areas of native forest are critical catalysts for natural regeneration events. They provide the seeds which enable new trees to germinate, and with appropriate land management changes to grow and together form a forest area. This is the central purpose of the human-induced regeneration method.
These pre-existing areas of residual trees have little bearing on carbon credit generation in HIR projects. Carbon modelling for HIR projects does not include standing carbon stock in residual trees, instead it models only new regenerating vegetation in the surrounding carbon estimation area. More than 80 ground measurement plots taken by independent researchers on Climate Friendly projects in 2021 demonstrate that carbon crediting across our project portfolio is conservative. The plots exclude any residual mature trees, and measure only the carbon stored in the regenerating trees. The plots observed greater, and in some instances significantly greater, biomass on the ground compared with what is being modelled and credited as part of the carbon project.
Further, while Tables 2.2 & 2.3 in the Beare & Chambers report show the presence of some residual trees in carbon estimation areas, they also show that around 60% of the ‘excluded islands’ – areas that not included in the carbon estimation area – are woody or open pixels, with regeneration potential. Data analysis by Beare & Chambers show increases in forest pixels after project commencement in these areas. Regenerating and forest thickening are the direct result of the project land management change, may lead to significant increases in overall carbon stock, and are not being credited. This further highlights that the human-induced regeneration method is conservative, aligned with the offsets integrity standards and is delivering genuine abatement.
Climate Friendly continually invests in new and emerging technology as part of our endeavours to ensure high integrity of the projects we support, providing certainty for our carbon farming partners. This includes investment in in-house precision mapping products, including high resolution drone and lidar imagery. “At 2.5cm resolution, these three-dimensional data sets show tree height, canopy and can even detect a tree branch on the ground”, said Skye. This level of precision enables us to track regeneration over time with increasing levels of confidence.
As part of our Active Landscape Management Pilots under the Queensland Land Restoration Fund, Climate Friendly is working with Bush Heritage and CSIRO to use this technology to test a canopy-based approach to measure and model carbon abatement in regenerating forests. It is our hope that this next generation of technology will form part of the integrated farm method to be developed in 2022, enhancing and refining achievements made under the human-induced regeneration method to date. This will further help us to support our carbon farming partners to implement important sustainable land management changes, and together to make a meaningful contribution towards a net-zero Australia.