National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS)

The Australian Government introduced the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) on 1 July 2010. The NCOS provides national consistency and consumer confidence in the voluntary carbon market.

The standard:

  • provides guidance on what is a genuine voluntary carbon emissions offset
  • sets minimum requirements for calculating, auditing and offsetting the carbon footprint of an organisation, product or event to voluntarily achieve 'carbon neutrality'.

What are 'carbon offsets'?

Carbon offsets are units which represent abatement of greenhouse gas emissions.

Abatement is achieved by:

  • reducing or avoiding emissions, for example, through capture and destruction of methane emissions from landfill or livestock manure
  • removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in soil or trees, for example, by growing a forest or reducing tillage on a farm in a way that increases soil carbon.

Offsets are usually purchased by individuals or companies and used to cancel out or 'offset' the emissions they generate during their normal course of business or day-to-day life, for example, by consuming electricity or catching a plane.

Carbon offsets can be used voluntarily or to meet regulatory requirements.

How does the NCOS works?

The NCOS provides a means of ensuring the environmental integrity of the carbon offsets and carbon neutral products available in the Australian voluntary market for consumers and businesses alike. It assists consumers to make informed choices and interpret carbon neutral claims. It also helps businesses to determine their carbon footprint in line with consumer expectations and ensures they purchase robust offsets.

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

These include:

  • Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) issued under the Carbon Farming Initiative
  • credits issued under the Australian Government's former Greenhouse Friendly Program
  • Carbon Units issued under Australia's Carbon Price Mechanism (from 1 July 2015)
  • international units issued under the Kyoto Protocol
  • credits issued under the Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).

* Exceptions apply. Refer to section 3.2 of the NCOS for details.

NCOS Carbon Neutral Program

The NCOS Carbon Neutral Program allows organisations, products and events to be certified as carbon neutral. This means that net associated emissions are equal to zero. Consumers can have confidence that organisations, products and events bearing the NCOS trademark have achieved carbon neutrality in a way that achieves a genuine reduction in overall emissions.

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