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FullCAM update for Emissions Reduction Fund vegetation projects: next steps

The Department is preparing to release an update to the Full Carbon Accounting Model (FullCAM) for public use in 2020.

Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) project participants use the current version of FullCAM to estimate abatement for a range of ERF vegetation projects.

Update May 2020

Impact on existing projects

After considering feedback in response to a November 2019 discussion paper on the FullCAM update, the Government decided to allow project participants with existing projects to choose to continue to use the current FullCAM (2016 FullCAM option) for the life of the projects.

The update was previously proposed for release on 1 July 2020. The date has been revised to 1 September 2020 in light of the current operating environment.

Only ERF projects with project applications submitted to the Clean Energy Regulator before 1 September 2020 will be eligible to use the 2016 FullCAM option. Projects with applications submitted from 1 September 2020 must use the 2020 FullCAM option.

Alternatively, project participants with existing projects can choose to use the updated FullCAM (2020 FullCAM option) at any time following its release in 2020. If the 2020 FullCAM option is used for a project, the project will not be able to return to using the 2016 FullCAM option.

Different arrangements will initially apply for projects under the Plantation Forestry and Farm Forestry methods (see below).

The Department will deliver the FullCAM update through a single public release version of FullCAM that will incorporate a 2020 FullCAM option and a 2016 FullCAM option.

ERF methods require FullCAM to be used in accordance with the applicable FullCAM Guidelines when estimating abatement for ERF projects. Updated FullCAM Guidelines for each relevant ERF method will provide guidance on using the FullCAM options outlined above. The above principles on use of updates to FullCAM are not limited to the 2020 public release of FullCAM.

Changes between the 2019 and 2020 pre-release versions

The Department held a workshop with stakeholders in February 2020 to discuss the process for the update, functional improvements in the new version of FullCAM, and the data and science underpinning revised biomass estimates. After considering feedback provided in the February 2020 workshop, and additional comments, the Department has:

  1. Made improvements to the FullCAM user interface and draft FullCAM Guidelines.
  2. Decided not to adopt the proposed spatial averaging function for carbon estimation areas.
  3. Added climate data for 2018.
  4. Corrected the timing of events in a number of regimes, which automate events common to simulations under some methods.
  5. Reverted the treatment of forest fires to be more aligned with the treatment in the current FullCAM, pending further data acquisition.
  6. Held further discussions with stakeholders on the new calibration in FullCAM for the growth rate of natural regeneration.
  7. For Environmental or Mallee Plantings, provided further information to stakeholders on the scientific basis of stocking density considerations in the relevant growth calibrations.
  8. Reviewed biomass estimates for plantation species. Further work is required to update parameters, in particular for decomposition and harvest volumes. The Department will undertake these improvements in consultation with users. In the interim, all projects under the Plantation Forestry and Farm Forestry methods will need to use the 2016 FullCAM option to estimate abatement.

The Department has also modified the method for projecting the Forest Productivity Index, to avoid the potential for climate data for a single year to have undue influence on biomass estimates over time.

Update December 2019

In November 2019, the Department released a discussion paper on options for transitional arrangements to assist project participants to move to using the FullCAM update.

After considering feedback on the discussion paper, the Government has decided to allow ERF project participants to choose to use the current version of FullCAM for the life of their projects. Alternatively, project participants can choose to use the new version (or a subsequent new version) of FullCAM at any time following its release in 2020. If the new version of FullCAM is used for a project, the project will not be able to return to the current version. The current version will remain available for use once the new version has been released.

Only ERF projects registered before a specified date in 2020 will be eligible to use the current version of FullCAM. The Department will determine this date and other details of the arrangements for using different FullCAM versions in early 2020, in consultation with stakeholders. Projects registered after the specified date will need to use the updated version of FullCAM.

In addition to allowing existing projects to continue to use the current version of FullCAM, the Department will work with stakeholders to provide a robust framework for implementing existing projects and exploring new opportunities for vegetation projects. This work includes:

  1. Further discussion on the nature of the changes made to FullCAM, and their implementation. This will include a forum to discuss the update to FullCAM in more detail and an avenue for users to provide further feedback on the updated model before it is finalised and released for use in ERF projects.
  2. Exploring development of a new native vegetation regeneration method. This will include consideration of the option of compressed crediting (as proposed in the November 2019 discussion paper) and suggestions on method design that could improve opportunities for new projects. Any new method would use the updated version of FullCAM.
  3. Developing a framework for sharing risks between the Government and ERF project participants. The aims of such a framework would be to ensure continued scheme integrity together with appropriate levels of certainty to enable continued scheme growth.

The Department will provide further details on these steps in January 2020.

Some vegetation projects registered under earlier versions of ERF methods use the Reforestation Modelling Tool (RMT) rather than FullCAM to estimate abatement. Unlike FullCAM, the RMT is not periodically updated. Projects using the RMT will be able to continue to use the RMT in its current form, or they can elect to transfer to the current method version and use the updated version of FullCAM.

Further information