International sustainability consultancy South Pole is offering a new dual-credit to companies that are seeking certification as carbon neutral or are aiming to voluntarily reduce emissions. South Pole has launched a new product called EcoAustralia™ that attaches voluntary carbon credits created from overseas greenhouse gas abatement projects to biodiversity credits created in Australia.
The dual-credit allows local businesses to play their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously demonstrate a commitment to protecting Australia's environment, South Pole's Jay van Rijn told Footprint. Van Rijn added that the prices of its EcoAustralia™ credits, offered through a partnership with Cassinia Environmental, are "highly competitive with the latest ERF auction prices". The EcoAustralia™ credits can be used to achieve carbon-neutral certification under the federal NCOS scheme. But they can't be used by large emitters to keep net emissions below Safeguard Mechanism limits, nor can they be used to fulfil ERF contracts, as only Australian carbon credits can be used for this purpose.
Reliance on international carbon units
The EcoAustralia™ product draws on overseas projects that are registered to create carbon credits under two well-known international schemes – the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Gold Standard, van Rijn said.
It combines these with biodiversity offsets that are formally recognised by the Victorian government, which until now have mostly been bought by property developers looking to offset the impacts of land clearing. South Pole is researching the potential to also use biodiversity credits available in South Australia, NSW and Queensland, van Rijn added.
Each Victorian biodiversity credit represents 1.5 square metres of permanent biodiversity conservation and the fact that the scheme is state-administered ensures the benefits to the natural environment are "transparent and measurable", he noted.
Limited availability of local carbon credits
Van Rijn said the dominance of the Clean Energy Regulator as a buyer in Australia's carbon market makes it hard for companies to source local carbon credits to achieve carbon neutrality or satisfy voluntary emissions reductions goals.
That's because carbon offset project developers generally prefer the certainty of selling their Australian carbon credits to the Regulator under long-term contracts. The potential to link carbon and biodiversity credits was highlighted last November in a carbon industry roadmap developed by the Carbon Market Institute. However, the road map focused on the potential to offer a premium credit that sourced both the carbon and biodiversity offsets locally. The South Pole EcoAustralia™ credits, which are already being purchased by Melbourne airport, are likely to make carbon credits from offshore projects more enticing to organisations with stakeholders who want local benefits. For example, Charles Sturt University has explicitly favoured purchasing from "locally-based projects, to the extent that it is deemed financially viable."
Originally published in Footprint News.