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A Common Approach for Commodity-Sector-Level GHG Accounting for Australian Agriculture



The broad aim of this cross-sectoral project is to develop a common framework for greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting that is transparent, trusted and relevant for Australia and can be broadly adopted across the whole of agriculture. Specific aims are to:

  • Develop a shared understanding of common ground for collective action and key areas of concern.
  • Deliver an agreed framework and accompanying methodologies to allow the Australian agricultural sector to develop a baseline for its GHG emissions.
  • Deliver a finer granulation of scale than the current measure in Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI).
  • Draw on existing national, international and sector-specific methodologies and carbon accounting tools to unify accounting as much as possible across product-level, farm-level, sector-level and national GHG assessment (NGGI).
  • Establish a common language around the concepts of carbon footprints, carbon accounts, baselines, carbon neutrality and net zero emissions.
  • Allow Australian agriculture to drive improvement of international tools and accounting systems which influence Australian farmers via procurement or market access criteria but don’t necessarily reflect the reality of Australian farming in very low-rainfall conditions and on relatively depleted soils.


Australia has a National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI), which provides an estimate of Australia’s national emissions required under international agreements. However, the NGGI is not well-suited to agriculture. Commodity greenhouse gas (GHG) accounts are being undertaken in a fragmented way and many disparate farm-level accounting tools have been developed. To date, mixed farming has not been considered. In addition, agricultural commodities are at different stages of understanding their GHG emissions profile. Some have made carbon neutral commitments, like Meat and Livestock Australia’s CN30 initiative, while others are evaluating what it means for production systems and supply chains.

The Common Methodology proposal was developed as a result of the Climate Research Strategy for Primary Industries (CRSPI) Carbon Workshop in December 2019, which recognised that a common approach for GHG accounting will allow Australian agriculture to contribute to sector, state and national climate commitments and sustainability goals. It is the first project to be contracted under the Agriculture Innovation Australia (AIA) entity. Co-investment was secured from CRSPI, AIA, DPIRD WA and eight agricultural Research and Development Corporations in an agreement with CSIRO (Climate Smart Agriculture) to deliver the project.

Research approach

This project will: • Undertake interviews and workshops to develop collective objectives for the methodology (or set of methodologies) for future

  • Embedded within accounting methodologies are specific choices that reflect certain objectives; for example, alignment with the national inventory for certain aspects may happen at the expense of the ability to align with farm-level accounting. As a sector-level baseline sits in between those levels, priorities will need to be identified.
  • Establish the relevant national and international approaches and protocols, taking into consideration the agreed, defined objectives.
  • Identify what design trade-offs make sense, given the common goals articulated by participants and other current or future users, for a potential common approach.
  • Develop a final framework using an iterative process which has consensus from participants and can be applied across agriculture at a sector level.
  • Identify next steps, including the implementation of the GHG accounting approach in baseline and mitigation assessment, individually or collectively. It is expected that about 80 per cent of the framework will be applicable across the whole of agriculture, and a modular approach may be required to accommodate differences between commodities.

Sector benefits

A common accounting approach for calculating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will allow a sector-wide baseline for agriculture to be set and methods for commodity-specific GHG baselines to be defined. Gains against national climate commitments and sustainability goals can then be measured against the baseline and inform international market access discussions. Having tools that reflect Australian conditions adequately will create transparency and trust in GHG accounting to support climate-sensitive production practices and action by producers.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.