Bootstrap Environmental Services recently sampled soils on a carbon farming project around Corryong Victoria and received a visit from the Clean Energy Regulator for an onsite audit.
The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) is the Government body responsible for administering legislation to reduce carbon emissions and increase the use of clean energy in Australia.
CER plays an important role in making sure that carbon credits issued to carbon farming projects are produced following strict methodology.
This ensures that the carbon credits are a quality 'product' representing actual carbon emissions taken out of the atmosphere (and in the case of this carbon farming project), and are stored in soils using approved agricultural practices.
The Agricultural Systems methodology is embedded in Australian federal legislation, so soil sampling for carbon projects must be done according to the law or the project cannot be eligible for carbon credits.
This audit and time in the field with the CER, was an excellent opportunity to showcase the process and procedure of taking soil samples for a project under the Climate Solutions Fund (ex Emissions Reduction Fund - ERF).
Bootstrap Environmental Services has given a number of soil sampling demonstrations in the field to the Clean Energy Regulator, the Department of Environment, Catchment Management Authorities, Landcare, corporations and stakeholders. This time was the first time that a government department performed an audit in situ of a project being sampled.
Whilst the CER perform audits of the entire project (including mapping, allocation of random and stratified sampling locations, record keeping), it is the responsibility of Bootstrap Environmental Services to be methodology and audit compliant when soil sampling projects.
The procedure is to take a number of soil samples from pre-determined point locations around the farm. Sampling involves traveling to the sampling location using a specified GPS unit, aligning the hydraulic soil corer to the sampling point, and taking the sample using a compliant rig. Once the soil sample is expelled, I take geo-tagged evidence photographs and take measurements in the field and record these. Samples are then sent off to an accredited laboratory for soil organic carbon analysis, again strictly to methodology. I will do another blog on the soil sampling procedure soon but in a nutshell, this is the process that the CER came to witness and audit.
The CER representatives were greatly satisfied with the process and practice of soil sampling for the carbon farming project.
The field audit was a success! In effect, each project is sampled in exactly the same way by me, so the results are produced via a replicated method. The CER was able to observe how all projects are sampled by Bootstrap Environmental Services attending this project in the field.
I think it's not enough to just observe though! I put the two CER staff to work in the field taking the actual soil samples. Believing strongly in participatory learning and experience, giving the CER the opportunity to get amongst it, greatly raises effective discussions around soil sampling and the procedures.
Those discussions and dialogue with the CER are greatly valued and they are seen as a mutual learning opportunity in what is a relatively young but strong carbon farming industry.
I have been sampling many carbon farming projects throughout Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia under the Climate Solutions Fund and Agricultural Systems methodology. Before this, I sampled in many locations around Australia, also under various carbon farming methodologies. I stopped counting after 10,000 samples!
This included the recent world first carbon farming project awarded carbon credits by the Clean Energy Regulator, that count toward Australia's Paris Agreement targets.