Bushfire Risk to Environmental Planting Projects Explained

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What does bushfire risk mean for an environmental planting project and how can it best be managed?


Planting native trees on your farm can deliver many broader farming and financial benefits. These include:

  • Providing stock shelter
  • Increasing biodiversity
  • Enhancing soil health and water retention
  • and we can’t forget – accessing carbon credits under the federal scheme.

However, in any tree planting project worth undertaking, there are also some potential snags that need to be avoided. Due to Australia’s relatively hot and dry climate, we commonly get asked about the risk of bushfires from those who are looking to undertake an environmental planting project. Below are some solutions that will help you get your ducks in a row and combat any potential bushfire risk. 


Be proactive and always consider bushfire risk in your project management plan 

Depending on the location and context, bushfires can be a fairly big risk to an environmental planting project and your accumulated carbon stocks (i.e. carbon credits). That’s why managing threats to tree survival is a bit of a no-brainer when you’re in the planning stage of an environmental planting project. 


We suggest a careful, locally specific project plan and planting design that considers the risk of bushfire to the environmental planting project. 


Engaging a local forestry expert to advise on clever design and ongoing management activities to reduce fire risk in your region can significantly reduce the threat of tree loss. 


For instance, effective strategies may include planting away from buildings and powerlines, using fire retardant and resilient species and design configurations, as well as proactively managing plantation fuel load throughout the project life. Additionally, your insurance provider may offer cover for your environmental planting project. 


Read up on the official policy behind bushfire loss

If you do find your project hit by bushfire, it is important to have an understanding of the Clean Energy Regulator’s official policy on bushfire loss. You should always clarify this before registering a project with the ACCU Scheme.


If reasonable action was taken to reduce fire risk, but tree loss from fire is unavoidable, the carbon farming scheme provides flexibility. After a loss event, regeneration or replanting should occur to return the affected area’s carbon stock to its pre-disturbance state. Credit issuance – and credit recovery – are paused until carbon stock levels return, at which point they will resume, reducing the risk of a debt to the Regulator. However, your crediting period will continue to run while your project returns to its pre-disturbance state i.e. it will not exceed its original 25 years. 


If you are unable to return to your pre-fire carbon stock levels, you may need to pay back any accrued credits to the Regulator. However, the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act 2011 (the legislation underpinning the ERF) sets out exemptions under which a Proponent may not be liable to relinquish due to certain causes, as follows:

  • the reversal event is a ‘natural disturbance’, or
  • reasonable action has been taken to reduce the risk of bushfires, or
  • conduct was engaged by another person that was not within the reasonable control of the project proponent.

These three criteria will be assessed by the Regulator on a case-by-case basis. As the use of language such as ‘reasonable’ is not prescriptive, we recommend that landowners conduct best-practice risk management by undertaking suitable/precautionary measures to protect their carbon stock (i.e. follow the guidance of fire management and permanence plans, maintain firebreaks, etc). These actions will put you in good stead and may exempt or limit the amount of carbon credits you have to relinquish.


If fire is a pertinent risk to your environmental planting project, bushfire risk planning and management is an extremely important box to tick off on the carbon farming checklist. With a solid management plan in place, you should be able to move forward with a an environmental planting project with confidence. 


It’s here where we want to point out something important

Understanding your contract with your carbon developer is a crucial step to reducing the added pressure if a bushfire (or drought) was to occur. When you work with the CFF, you come away with 100% of carbon credits (we don’t take a chunk), so in the event of a reversal, you have access to all the credits you’ve accrued on the project and there is no obligation to continue with our services at any time during the project.


Ready to find out more?

Explore our range of educational resources in our Carbon Farming Education Hub where we frequently publish educational articles, webinars, and guidebooks. 


When you’re ready to explore the feasibility of undertaking a carbon project on your property, email us at hello@carbonfarming.org.au or give us a bell at (08) 6835 1140 to be connected with one of our project facilitators.

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