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Are ACCUs one big green Monopoly game?

The Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU) Scheme is a little bit like the game, Monopoly – and specifically the Go Green edition. How? The ACCUs are the Australian ‘policy version’ of the ‘greening game,’ with financial incentives to buy green technologies and initiatives – and disincentives for polluters, with the goal of cleaning up the planet. With ACCUs, Australian businesses receive credits for projects that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions. This requires projects to meet and follow integrity criteria to ensure that issued ACCUs indeed do avoid or decrease emissions. That’s the official rulebook, but the reality of how the game is played can be a bit different...
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Rethinking work
22 July 2024
Chelsea Johnston - Consultant
5 minutes

The Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU) Scheme is a little bit like the game, Monopoly – and specifically the Go Green edition. How? The ACCUs are the Australian ‘policy version’ of the ‘greening game,’ with financial incentives to buy green technologies and initiatives – and disincentives for polluters, with the goal of cleaning up the planet. With ACCUs, Australian businesses receive credits for projects that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions. This requires projects to meet and follow integrity criteria to ensure that issued ACCUs indeed do avoid or decrease emissions. That’s the official rulebook, but the reality of how the game is played can be a bit different...

A recent Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Performance Audit into the scheme suggested that there is greater need for transparency. The ANAO concluded that the issuing and compliance of ACCUs are largely effective. However, the ANAO also found that the information systems concerning the administration of the scheme ‘have weaknesses that create a risk that unauthorised or unapproved activities may not be detected.’ 

Dishonest and deceptive Monopoly players may find this recommendation relevant. These players can create distrust within the system by taking advantage of their ability to take actions that other players may not notice. That narrative could be applied to the ACCU. In fact, Professor Andrew Macintosh, an environmental law professor and former chair of the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee, concluded that the ACCU scheme was a fraud on taxpayers and the environment.” Some members of industry have echoed Professor Macintosh’s concerns, maintaining that ACCUs lack integrity, exacerbate the primary problem and give polluting companies the green light to continue business as usual

The truth? Well, it’s somewhere in between. What is certain is that the Australian Government has committed to a greenhouse gas reduction target of 43% by 2030, demonstrating increasing national interest in employing climate mitigation strategies and to enhance Australia’s climate action efforts. ACCUs are a core contributor to achieving this target. Administered by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER), the scheme seeks to reduce Australia’s contribution to greenhouse gas induced climate change. The ACCU program and the CER also supports Australia’s overarching climate policies.

Most people would agree that the Australian Government and our community both have a deep interest in ensuring that no one’s doing what your sister or brother used to do, i.e. pinching money from the Monopoly bank while no one was looking. That’s why maintaining the credibility and integrity of ACCUs is key – and why the ANAO’s Performance Audit is important. It also highlights that Australia’s ‘Green Monopoly’ players should follow the rules.

At Synergy Law, a core part of our operating ethos and methodology is to ‘play with impact’ and to make a difference in issues that are far more important than board games. We are proud to help our clients achieve the highest standards of probity for procurement, contracting and other activities. What does probity look like in your organisation – and for green initiatives? Here are five tips to foster and achieve a pro-integrity and compliance centred workplace culture.

  • Get up close and personal with your policies and procedures - Louder for the Monopoly players in the back! Should everyone in an organisation be expected to adhere to policies and procedures? Yes! An organisation becomes vulnerable to probity and compliance risks without a firm understanding of organisational policies and procedures. Awareness of these protocols and their purpose can help ensure that compliance issues are less likely.
  • Revitalise your values  How to provide a strong foundation for compliance? Start with your organisation’s values. At Synergy Law, we live and breathe our values. Speaking on them and their importance is what makes them relevant and embedded in our actions and mission. 
  • Be champions of routine training Is regular and routine training necessary to generate professional standards? It boosts individual and organisational performance and provides a strong foundation by ensuring that employees understand the importance of compliance, their related tasks and behavioural expectations. How routine is routine? Training should be frequent and ongoing to ensure that knowledge of procedures and processes are up-to-date, accurate and compliant.
  • Embrace compliance mistakes – Is that necessary – to embrace mistakes? Definitely! Recognising compliance mistakes presents opportunities to learn from the actual experience. A simple, but valuable tool to embrace mistakes is a lessons-learnt register. This is a common artefact that records knowledge gained through a project to evaluate and improve future processes and performance. The power of Lessons-Learnt Registers should not be underestimated, nor overlooked. By documenting lessons learned, agencies can avoid repeating mistakes. And compliance-related performance can be continuously corrected and enhanced.
  • Be committed in your approach – What happens if your organisation isn’t committed? Your actions are not likely to align with your intentions or desired outcomes. A game of Monopoly fails without consistent compliance – and your nasty little sibling might (undeservedly) win. Therefore, the success of the game depends on how well the rules are followed.
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