Carbon farming pilot delivers dollars

25 May 2018

Angus Arnott (Lachlan Catchment Management Authority) and Dr Warwick Badgery (NSW DPI) monitoring soil carbon in the Lachlan River catchment

Central West farmers have this month received their final cheques from Australia’s first soil carbon sequestration pilot project to explore the use of a market-based scheme.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Climate Unit director, Jason Crean, said the five-year project exceeded initial projections of stored soil carbon levels by 27 per cent.

“The Catchment Action Market Based Instrument (CAMBI) project delivered an average of 2.66 tonnes of carbon (CO2-e) per hectare, per year across the project area,” Dr Crean said.

“In exploring soil carbon as a sink for the mitigation of climate change and as part of Australia’s greenhouse response, CAMBI sequestered 9951 tonnes of CO2-e.

“Initiated in 2009, a team of policymakers, economists and scientists asked a key question - Could we implement a soil carbon trading system, if government implemented this as policy?

“CAMBI confirmed that in the right conditions landholders can achieve a substantial rate of soil carbon sequestration.”

The Australian Government subsequently introduced new carbon schemes, including the Carbon Farming Initiative and Emissions Reduction Fund.

CAMBI was delivered by NSW DPI, the Office of Environment and Heritage and the former Lachlan Catchment Management Authority, now Local Land Services, with support from Catchment Action NSW.

A total of 26 bids were submitted by landholders in the Lachlan River catchment to sequester soil carbon and 10 landholders were contracted through the pilot.

Senior Local Land Services officer, David Trengove said landholders approached carbon farming, which was new at that time, with enthusiasm and optimism.

“A lot of interest stemmed from farmers managing their own enterprises and seeing results firsthand,” Mr Trengove said.

“Now they are reaping extra benefits from increased soil carbon content, which improved moisture retention rates, groundcover, animal health and production.”

CAMBI examined the relationship between land use, management practices and soil carbon levels and offered alternative contract designs to suit farmers. Results revealed a clear preference for outcome-based contracts, where payments are made for the amount of soil carbon stored, rather than action-based contracts paying for the adoption of specific practices.

CAMBI successfully demonstrated how a multidisciplinary team could work with landholders to effectively explore the application of potential policy options.

Photographs available from

Media contact: Bernadette York (02) 6938 1664, 0427 773 785