National Carbon Offset Standard

The Australian Government introduced the National Carbon Offset Standard (the Standard) on 1 July 2010. The Standard provides a benchmark for businesses and other organisations voluntarily seeking to be carbon neutral for their operations, products, services or events. The Standard sets out requirements for achieving carbon neutrality, based on a rigorous and transparent framework that is based on relevant international standards and tailored to the Australian context..

The standard:

  • sets minimum requirements for calculating, auditing and offsetting the carbon account of an organisation, product, service or event to voluntarily achieve carbon neutrality; and
  • provides guidance on what is a genuine offset unit.

What are offset units'?

Offsets units are units which represent genuine reductions or abatement of greenhouse gas emissions.

Abatement is achieved by:

  • reducing or avoiding emissions, for example, through energy efficiency measures
  • removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in soil or trees, for example, by growing a forest.

Offset units are usually purchased by individuals or companies and used to cancel out or 'offset' the emissions they generate during their normal course of business.

How does the Standard work?

The Standard is designed to provide confidence in the environmental integrity of the carbon neutral claim for consumers and businesses alike. It helps businesses to determine their carbon account (also known as a carbon footprint) in line with consumer expectations, and ensures they back their carbon neutral claim through the cancellation of robust offset units. It also assists consumers to interpret carbon neutral claims and make informed choices.

Organisations seeking to voluntarily offset their emissions or achieve carbon neutrality under the Standard are able to purchase from a range of eligible offset units.

These include:

  • Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) issued under the Emissions Reduction Fund.
  • certain international units issued under the Kyoto Protocol*
  • credits issued under the Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).

* Exceptions apply. Refer to section 5 and Appendix A of the Standard for details.

Carbon Neutral Program

The Australian Government’s Carbon Neutral Program allows organisations, products, services and events to be certified as carbon neutral against the Standard. This means that net associated emissions are equal to zero. Consumers can have confidence that organisations, products, services and events bearing the certification trade mark have achieved carbon neutrality in a credible and transparent way.

From 1 July 2010 until 31 May 2013 the Carbon Neutral Program was administered by Low Carbon Australia Limited. The program is now administered by the Department of the Environment.