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CLIMATE ACTIVE

Climate Active is a certification program that promotes carbon neutrality and sustainable practices in Australia. As the effects of climate change continue to pose significant challenges, organisations and individuals are increasingly recognising the need to take measures to mitigate their environmental impact. Climate Active certification serves as a credible validation of an entity's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and demonstrates their active participation in creating a sustainable future.

This article provides an in-depth overview of the Climate Active certification process, including certification requirements, associated fees, strategies for reducing emissions, selection of offset units, and the importance of annual reporting documents.

Certification

What is Climate Active?

Climate Active is a collaboration between the Australian Government and businesses and serves as a carbon neutrality certification program. Distinguished as the only government-accredited carbon neutral certification scheme in Australia, Climate Active provides a framework for organisations to measure, reduce, and offset their carbon emissions. Climate Active certification is granted to businesses that have credibly achieved net zero emissions, also known as carbon neutrality.

Who can become certified?

Climate Active provides certification for a wide range of entities, including organisations, products, services, events, buildings, and precincts. Businesses of varying sizes, prominent Australian enterprises, local government bodies and nonprofit organisations have successfully obtained Climate Active certification. 

What is carbon neutrality?

Carbon neutrality is achieved by effectively balancing greenhouse gas emissions from an individual, organisation, or entity's business operations or product production. This is done by reducing emissions through measures like adopting new technologies and implementing operational changes, and offsetting remaining emissions through verified carbon offset projects. These projects involve activities that prevent, reduce, or remove greenhouse gas emissions. By ensuring the total offsets purchased equal the emissions produced, businesses and organisations achieve carbon neutrality.

What are the benefits of certification?

Climate Active certification signals an organisation's commitment to sustainability, innovation, and positive industry change. It demonstrates active participation in emissions reduction and a dedication to a greener future. With the backing of the Australian government, the certification adheres to rigorous international standards, enhancing credibility and trust.

Benefits of Climate Active certification:

  • Meeting stakeholder expectations and building trust.
  • Achieving energy efficiency and cost savings.
  • Enhancing corporate reputation and image.
  • Fostering employee engagement and pride.
  • Gaining increased customer recognition and loyalty.

Is Climate Active legitimate?

Yes. Climate Active is distinguished as the sole government-accredited carbon neutral certification scheme in Australia.

How long does it take to become certified?

The certification process can differ based on the size of an organisation’s carbon emissions and the specific certification it seeks. It may involve the collection and validation of one year's worth of data to establish an organisation's carbon footprint.  After submitting an application, a decision will be reached, which typically takes up to six weeks.

What is the certification process?

Application: to begin the journey towards carbon neutrality, businesses must submit an application to Climate Active, leading to a formal licence agreement upon approval.

Calculate Emissions: Businesses calculate their greenhouse gas emissions, establishing their carbon footprint, and identifying emission sources.

Emissions Reduction Strategy: A proactive approach to reduce emissions includes operational adjustments, energy efficiency improvements, and using certified carbon-neutral products and services. The strategy outlines specific measures and quantifies anticipated emissions reductions.

Offset: To neutralise remaining emissions, businesses can purchase carbon credits from projects like reforestation or renewable energy initiatives. It should also be noted that entities can also apply for ACCUs directly if their projects result in carbon reductions. These projects must be accompanied by an eligible offsets report and an audit report (if required by your audit schedule).

Validation: An independent third party validates the carbon neutral claim, verifying emissions data, and conducting regular reporting and auditing.

Publication: After a thorough assessment, Climate Active grants certification and publishes the organisation's carbon neutral claim on their website, promoting transparency and credibility.

How long does certification last?

Certification for organisations, products, services, and precincts remains active as long as the Licence Agreement is maintained. There are ongoing requirements such as a base year reports and annual reports that you will need to complete to maintain certification. Fees also recur on an annual basis.

On the other hand, event certification is valid for a period of 12 months after the event takes place. 

What do I do if I want to stop being certified?

Cancellation of certification is possible upon providing a one-month notice. However, this is subject to fulfilling all reporting and offsetting obligations for the certification period.

If I‘m not certified, can I use the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard to self-declare carbon neutrality?

Anyone can conduct a self-assessment of their activities based on the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard. However, the ability to declare oneself as Climate Active  certified and utilise the trademark is exclusively reserved for entities that have fulfilled the certification requirements and completed a Licence Agreement.

Can I use the Climate Active certification trade mark if I’m not certified?

No. The utilisation of the Climate Active certification trademark is limited to certified entities, including organisations, products, services, buildings, events, and precincts, who have fulfilled certification criteria and paid the applicable licence fee. To retain the right to use the Climate Active trademark, the entity must adhere to continuous certification requirements as outlined in the licence agreement.

Can I use the trademark on my product if my organisation is certified?

No. The Climate Active trademark licence is exclusively granted in connection with a certified carbon account. In order for a product to display the certification trademark, it must undergo its own certification process.

Fees

What fees are involved to get Climate Active certified?

The Climate Active certification process involves four types of fees. Firstly, there is an annual licence fee associated with maintaining the certification. Additionally, a third party validation fee is required, which is generally a nominal charge, but typically ranges between $2,000 to $5,000. Calculation fees are also applicable for the detailed assessment of carbon emissions, while offsetting fees cover the cost of compensating for remaining emissions through verified offset projects. The cost of offsets depends on the quantity needed and the specific offset units acquired.

 It is important to note that validation, calculation, and offsetting  expenses are distinct from the annual licence fee, as they are determined by market rates and can vary across the industry.

What is the annual licence fee?

The annual licence fee is determined by the size of your organisation's carbon account. The annual fee is calculated based on the net emissions before offsetting and the number of certifications held by the organisation. This fee covers various aspects, including licence administration, compliance with the certification trademark, and support services tailored to certified organisations. 

What are the annual fees for organisations, products, services and precincts?

Single Certification

The annual fee required to maintain the certification must be paid by the entity within 30 days of receiving an invoice.

The fees undergo an annual increase of 2.5% on 1st July each year, unless the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources publishes different fees through an updated Licence Agreement, which will be made available on the Climate Active website and communicated accordingly.

Multiple Certifications

The annual fee required to maintain these certifications must be paid within 30 days of receiving an invoice. The calculation of this fee is as follows:

  • The responsible entity is required to pay 100% of the fee (adjusted annually) applicable to the certification with the highest emissions.
  • Additionally, the responsible entity must pay 25% of the fee (adjusted annually) applicable to the certifications with the second, third, fourth, and fifth highest emissions (if such certifications exist).
  • No fees are applicable to any certifications beyond a total of five held by a single Responsible Entity.

What are the one-time fees for events?

Single Certification

The one-time fee must be settled within 30 days of receiving an invoice and prior to the event date or any usage of the certification trade mark (CTM) in relation to the event, whichever occurs earlier. 

A small event refers to one with:

(a) less than 5,000 attendees; or

(b) less than 10,000 attendees and an Event duration of one day or less.

A large event refers to one with:

(a) more than 10,000 attendees; or

(b) more than 5,000 attendees and an Event duration of greater than one day.

The fees undergo an annual increase of 2.5% on 1st July each year, unless the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources publishes different fees through an updated Licence Agreement, which will be made available on the Climate Active website and communicated accordingly.

Portfolio Certifications

The one-time fee must be settled within 30 days of receiving an invoice and prior to the date of the earliest event or any usage of the certification trade mark (CTM) in connection with the portfolio of events, whichever occurs earlier. The calculation of this fee is as follows:

  • The responsible entity is obligated to pay 100% of the fee (adjusted annually) applicable to one of the events in the portfolio, which must be a large event if such an event exists within the Portfolio.
  • Additionally, the responsible entity must pay 50% of the fee (adjusted annually) applicable to every other event included in the Portfolio.

How is the Climate Active certification fee calculated?

The annual certification fee for Climate Active is determined by the net emissions before offsetting and the total number of certifications held.

What do I get for my certification fee?

Certification grants a licence to display the Climate Active certification trademark, demonstrating your organisation's carbon neutral status. Additionally, certification entitles you to join the Climate Active Network. The fees encompass administrative tasks related to certification, technical assistance, and support for the use of the certification trademark.

Reducing Emissions

What emission reductions are needed for certification?

Climate Active certification involves claiming carbon neutrality through calculating the carbon footprint, reducing emissions where possible, and offsetting the remaining emissions.

To be certified, organisations must create and publish an emissions reduction strategy, outlining planned measures and expected reductions within a timeframe. While annual absolute emission reductions are not mandatory, reductions should be pursued whenever practical and cost-effective. All achieved and planned reductions must be included in a public report on the organisation's website.

How can I reduce emissions?

According to the Organisation Standard, it is required to prioritise emissions reduction activities within the organisation before resorting to purchasing and cancelling eligible offset units. These reductions can be achieved through various means, such as:

  • Increasing energy efficiency (e.g., through energy-efficient lighting and appliances).
  • Switching to renewable energy sources.
  • Substituting products or inputs with lower emissions intensity (e.g., transitioning from conventional vehicle fleets to electric or hybrid vehicle fleets).
  • Changing practices to replace emissions-intensive activities with lower-emission alternatives (e.g., reducing business flights by utilising teleconferencing).
  • Encouraging and optimising responsible waste treatment (e.g., implementing source separation and procuring waste treatment services with biogas capture).

Does the reduction strategy need to be included in my  public disclosure statement?

Yes. The annual Public Disclosure Statement or other public report must include a summary or outline of the emissions reduction strategy.

Eligible Offset Units

What are offsets? 

Offset units serve as a means for businesses to counterbalance the emissions they generate, thereby aiding in the reduction of their carbon footprint. These units are generated through projects that actively diminish, eliminate, or capture emissions from the atmosphere, such as removing emissions by engaging in large-scale land re-vegetation.

How do I know if my offsets are legitimate? 

The Australian Government regularly assesses publicly accessible offset units to ensure their legitimacy. These units must meet integrity criteria outlined in the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard, including initiatives like reforestation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency projects that offer environmental and social benefits. Refer to the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard for the full list of eligible offset units.

Can Climate Active advise on the type of offsets I should buy?

Climate Active’s Technical Guidance Manual provides valuable information that you should be aware of before purchasing offsets, as well as factors to consider when selecting eligible units. This guidance offers insights to help you make informed decisions, and it is readily available for you to use.

Does Climate Active provide offset projects?

Climate Active offers guidance regarding suitable offsets that can be employed to achieve carbon neutrality in a credible manner. However, it's important to note that Climate Active does not oversee offset projects, issue offset credits, or evaluate companies seeking to become carbon credit producers.

How do I set up an offset project?

Climate Active offers guidance regarding suitable offsets that can be employed to achieve carbon neutrality in a credible manner. However, it's important to note that Climate Active does not oversee offset projects, issue offset credits, or evaluate companies seeking to become carbon credit producers.

What are ACCUs?

ACCU refers to Australian Carbon Credit Units issued under the Australian Government's ACCU Scheme. These tradable units represent one tonne of avoided or removed carbon dioxide equivalent emissions achieved through emission reduction projects like reforestation and renewable energy. Organisations can earn ACCUs by reducing emissions and can sell them to offset other entities' emissions, encouraging emission reduction efforts and supporting Australia's sustainability goals.

What does it mean when organisations buy ACCUs?

When organisations buy ACCUs, they are purchasing carbon offsets to compensate for their own greenhouse gas emissions. This helps them achieve carbon neutrality or emission reduction goals. Buying ACCUs allows organisations to balance their carbon emissions by investing in emission reduction efforts elsewhere, reducing their overall carbon footprint.

Climate active requires all carbon neutral certifications to utilise a minimum of 20% ACCUs. This requirement will be effective from:

  • July 1, 2023, for new and ongoing certifications equal to or exceeding 1,000 tonnes of CO2-e. 
  • July 1, 2024, for certifications below 1,000 tonnes of CO2-e.

Are there more benefits associated with offsetting?

Carbon offset projects offer more than just mitigating greenhouse gas emissions; they provide various co-benefits that enhance different aspects of life. These projects often contribute to increased biodiversity, habitat protection, and improved local air and water quality. 

Additionally, they create employment opportunities, support communities in living and working on their land, and promote capacity building, health, and education. Moreover, economic benefits arise from the sale of offset credits, providing income to the project's community, leading to improved infrastructure, technology transfer, and increased economic activity.

Annual Reporting Documents

What is included in the required public reporting?

Organisations must publicly release an annual report that communicates their progress on emissions reduction activities and offsetting efforts. The following details must be included:

  • Total gross and net greenhouse gas emissions for the base year and current reporting period, considering renewable energy and certified carbon neutral activities, with an explanation of any significant changes not attributed to emissions reduction actions.
  • An emissions summary table displaying high-level emissions sources and total emissions for each source type.
  • Disclosure of any non-quantified emissions within the emissions boundary and plans for improving the consistency and completeness of the carbon accounting in the future.
  • Disclosure of any excluded emission sources from the emissions boundary, along with the justification for the exclusion, addressing stakeholder expectations.
  • A summary of the emissions reduction strategy and the activities undertaken in line with the strategy.
  • Records confirming the cancellation of sufficient eligible offset units to offset the organisation's emissions, including the name of the registry, vintage year, project type, and serial numbers of the relevant units.

This information is made publicly available on the Climate Active website and must also be accessible on the certified organisation's own website.

Will all data be made public?

Climate Active verifies the accuracy and comprehensiveness of your carbon account data during the application process. While not all data needs to be publicly disclosed, submitting your carbon account and public report to the Climate Active team ensures controlled dissemination of public data. The public report should provide sufficient details to enable readers to understand the emissions offset as part of your carbon neutral assertion.

Carbon Accounting

What is third-party validation?

Independent third-party validation ensures accurate carbon calculations for carbon neutral certification. Regular reporting and independent auditing or verification of the carbon account, emissions over time, and carbon offsets are required under the Organisation Standard. A carbon neutral claim must undergo independent validation (audit or verification) by an environmental auditor or carbon consultant every three years, and the findings and assurance statement should be made publicly available.

The auditor or verifier may require access to facilities, equipment, personnel, and records within the organisation's emissions boundary for appropriate validation. This includes monitoring records, utility bills, test reports, failure reports, internal audit and management review records, customer complaints, statistics, and any additional reporting or information sources used to develop the carbon account.

The responsible entity must maintain records for auditing or verification and cover associated costs. Requirements for source data, assessments, and eligible assessors depend on the organisation's size and complexity. The organisation is responsible for arranging and covering all validation costs. Validation reports and related documents must be submitted as part of the application process.

Where can I get help?

Climate Active maintains a directory of consultants who specialise in offering technical support for your certification process. These consultants facilitate the smooth progression of carbon neutral applications and reporting.

Registered consultants:

  • Assist in the preparation of applications for carbon neutral certification.
  • Aid in ongoing reporting for carbon neutral certification.
  • Conduct technical evaluations of carbon neutral applications and reports.

For most certification types, it is mandatory to engage a registered consultant for certain aspects mentioned above.

Is NetNada a registered consultant? 

Yes, NetNada is a registered consultant with Climate Active. Our team consists of multiple in-house experts with extensive knowledge and experience in carbon calculations, making us well-equipped to assist organisations in achieving carbon neutrality certification. Moreover, our platform is specifically designed to facilitate the accurate and comprehensive carbon calculations required for Climate Active certification. 

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Unconventional techniques can sequester carbon while improving the soil. A look into Canada’s advancements in regenerative farming techniques and their positive impacts.
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Article
8 min read

Committing to Sustainable Franchising

Franchise brands continue to expand their commitment to sustainability, shrinking their carbon footprints with steps ranging from using solar power and recycled building materials to energy-efficient lighting.
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Article
8 min read

The Delicate Relationship Between Content and Greenwashing

In recent times, corporate Australia has made a series of bold commitments towards positive action against climate change. But is creating “sustainable content” an invitation to greenwashing allegations? Or do businesses have a responsibility to do so?
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Article
8 min read

Politicians vs water experts: making Sydney potable water reuse a reality

Vastly differing viewpoints exist between politicians and water practitioners regarding their sense of the likelihood of potable reuse uptake in the next 30 years.
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Article
8 min read

The drinking water of the future

Recycled water for drinking, or “the drinking water of the future” has been in use in multiple countries and cities around the world – Singapore, Namibia, Perth, and San Diego. In San Diego, a simple water treatment system purifies wastewater into water fit for drinking.
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News
8 min read

Is Carbon Capture the Road to Recovery?

The world’s largest plant designed to suck carbon dioxide out of the air and turn it into rock has started running in Iceland, constructed by Climeworks, when operating at capacity the plant will draw 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the air every year.
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Article
8 min read

Sustainable Business - Where is the ROI?

Return on Investment (ROI) is the term that is thrown around to identify if and when a company’s expenditure will return a profit, either monetarily or non-monetarily. This is based on spending, speculation, expectation and forecasting.
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