Australia: The Carbon Neutral Program and the National Carbon Offset Standard

Legally Green
Last Updated: 9 August 2010
Article by Elisa de Wit

In our February 2010 edition of Legally Green we foreshadowed the introduction of the Federal Government's new voluntary 'carbon neutral' standard - the 'National Carbon Offset Standard' (NCOS).

The NCOS commenced operation on 1 July 2010 and takes over from the 'Greenhouse Friendly' programme which closed on 30 June 2010.

The Carbon Neutral Program provides for the voluntary certification of Australian operations and products as 'carbon neutral' where the requirements of the NCOS are met.

In order for an Australian organisation or product to achieve 'carbon neutrality' and be certified as such, the net emissions associated with an organisation's behaviour or product must equal to zero.

NCOS requires Carbon Neutral Program participants to publicly disclose information relating to greenhouse gas measurement, reduction offsetting and verification activities. In particular, NCOS Carbon Neutral participants are required to:

  • complete a Public Disclosure Summary as part of the Annual Reporting process, and
  • submit the completed and verified (where applicable) Public Disclosure Summary to the Program Administrator.

There are numerous reasons why an organisation may decide to go carbon neutral. In general, the main reasons are to reduce impact on global warming, reputational or corporate positioning, and differentiation from market competitors, attracting and retaining staff and saving money by reducing resource use and thereby decreasing emissions reduction.

Many companies that were certified under the Greenhouse Friendly initiative are now opting to undertake the transition to the NCOS Carbon Neutral Program.

Guidelines and Templates

The NCOS Carbon Neutral Program Guidelines (Guidelines), released on 1 July 2010, have been prepared to provide general guidance on meeting the Standard. The Guidelines prescribe the key steps for achieving and maintaining NSCO Carbon Neutral Certification, use of the NCOS Carbon Neutral trademark and recertification.

The following six templates have also been released under the Carbon Neutral Program to provide assistance to participants in meeting the Guidelines:

  1. Public Disclosure Summary - this template requires participants to disclose the organisation and production information and description, purchases of GreenPower or voluntary cancellations, total carbon footprint, emission reduction measures and offset purchase/cancellation.
  2. Organisation Greenhouse Gas Inventory - since participants who seek certification as an organisation are required to complete a carbon footprint in line with the Standard this template should be used to document relevant inventory. This template requires participants to disclose the base year, organisation description and boundary, identify the emissions sources, emissions exclusions, activity data, calculation methodology and emission factors, assumptions, emissions calculations and assessment of uncertainty.
  3. Product Life Cycle Assessment - this template requires participants to document the base year, product description, scope and limitations, functional unit, assumptions and uncertainties, system boundary, identify emission sources, emission exclusions, inventory analysis, emissions attributable to the product and assessment of uncertainty for direct scope 1 emissions.
  4. Emissions Management Plan - participants under the NCOS Carbon Neutral Program are required to develop an Emissions Management Plan. This document prescribes what the Plan must identify and the template requires participants to document organisation and/or production information, greenhouse gas emissions, emissions reduction strategy, carbon offsets, record keeping and quality control practices.
  5. Independent Verification - since participants are responsible for having their NCOS Carbon Neutral Program documentation independently verified this document should be used by Independent Verifiers to document the findings of verification activities. The template requires Independent Verifiers to document the organisation and/or product information, type of verification, verifier information, scope of verification, verification opinion, confirmation of verification findings, recommendations, life cycle assessment, greenhouse gas inventory, emissions management plan, annual report and public disclosure summary.
  6. Annual Report - participants under the NCOS Carbon Neutral Program are required to provide an Annual Report to the Program Administrator within four months of the conclusion of the agreed reporting period. The template requires participants to document the organisation and production information, inventory/life cycle assessment review, emission management plan review, carbon footprint, emission reduction measures, offset cancellation, records/documents attached and NCOS carbon neutral program participant declaration.

A copy of the Guidelines and the above templates can be found here.

Please contact a member of our Climate Change team if you require advice on the NCOS or becoming "carbon neutral".

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Elisa de Wit
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