Carbon accounting in Australia

Author name: 
Dr Judith Ajani and Peter Comisari
  1. Australia faces a very real opportunity to build a comprehensive carbon stock and flow accounting system fully integrated with our economic information system. Regularly reporting such data will enhance significantly the information for policy making, public understanding and debate.

  2. For countries undertaking carbon stock accounting for their jurisdiction, the primary reservoirs in the geosphere (geocarbon in largely fossil fuels) and the biosphere (biocarbon in biomass and soils) are the most important. The release of carbon by human activity from primary reservoirs is the primary cause of global warming. The long experience in national economic accounting confirms that accounting frameworks with comprehensiveness (completeness) built in from the start are highly desirable. This does not mean that all carbon stocks and flows should be or need to be reported. The purpose of the statistics and resources available for information collection and reporting will determine coverage and priorities. As these priorities change or new information and understanding becomes available, comprehensive accounting frameworks can more readily accommodate such changes and therefore better serve the multiple information needs of users.

  3. The carbon classification system is fundamental for generating useful information from the accounts. With climate mitigation being the primary purpose of the information, criteria that separates the different carbon reservoirs (for example, in different fossil fuels, ecosystems and economic products) by their carbon stock stability/longevity/restoration capacity attributes is important. Such science-based criteria should be consistent across both geocarbon and biocarbon. Further disaggregation in the classification for biocarbon should be science-based using the same criteria of stock stability/longevity/restoration capacity.

  4. Australia’s carbon stock and flow information is reported using IPCC designed industry activity or product classifications. DoE and the ABS have developed concordance tables to enable linkages with economic data (ex post). Benefits in information quality, and ease and cost of reporting are likely to be realised by designing the carbon classification system to be consistent with the product classifications used to generate Australia’s economic information (ex ante).

  5. The Australian Greenhouse Energy Information System (AGEIS), managed by DoE to meet the Australian Government’s reporting commitments under the UNFCC, contains information that could populate large components of an Australian carbon stock account. This is particularly the case for biocarbon in the land sector (coverage of the marine sector is under development) with stock-based models underpinning the reporting of flow information. Geocarbon stock information is not available with the main exception being DoE work to estimate carbon in non-energy products such as plastics, lubricants and fertilisers. AGEIS contains limited information on biocarbon-based products that accumulate in the economy: the primary one being wood products. The ABS experimental work to populate the fossil fuel component of an Australian carbon stock account fills a major information gap. Feedback on the questions accompanying the exercise is keenly sought.

Publication file: 

Updated:  31 March 2023/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team