Responsible use of data to achieve Net Zero targets

Project Duration: December 2020 – June 2021

Corellas on a pastoral property in Central Australia
Connect to Recover_B Gilfedder

Credit: Barbara Gilfedder

Promoting connection while protecting environmental data

The Challenge

Australia’s size, natural resources and environmental knowledge offer significant potential to generate environmental benefits through effective landscape management. Environmental benefits can include, but are not limited to, carbon sequestration and emissions reduction. While such benefits have historically been unrecognised by markets, this is changing as international carbon ‘green finance’ markets develop. Accessing these green markets requires landholders to demonstrate their environmental credentials and connect to appropriate partners, which is being made much easier by advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data and data linkages.

However, the use of data sets in this way creates challenges in ensuring that individual and community rights to that data are protected and that benefits for local people are maximised. Ethical data governance principles need to be embedded into how data is collected, used, shared and re-used, as well as how digital platforms are designed to ensure individuals and communities benefit from participating.

Responding to the Challenge

Carbon and green finance markets require on-the-ground activity for managing land and calibrating measurements. This means gathering information from landholders about their particular on-site environmental benefits and conveying it to those who may wish to invest. Digital platforms can be used to match landholders with those interested in achieving net-zero targets, for instance, and report on carbon and other positive impacts delivered by resourced land management activities.

Since digital platforms can also create problems – for example by creating information imbalances, infringing on privacy and rights to data – research into data governance is needed.

CSIRO’s Responsible Innovation Future Science Platform will consider how data governance principles and digital platforms could be designed and operated in order to efficiently and equitably assist landholders to benefit from carbon and green finance markets.

Lessons can be learnt about ethical data governance from existing carbon market partnerships and technologies. By drawing on these lessons, this research aims to identify ethical data governance principles and practices that can inform efficient accounting of carbon projects while also delivering local social, cultural and economic co-benefits.

We will examine what information is required to support such markets, and how this can be gathered and shared without adversely impacting landholders. We will also consider the rights and responsibilities of the various parties involved in the data supply chain, using a co-design process to identify appropriate governance arrangements.

Project Impact

This project offers a socio-technical research approach to identify how such a digital platform would be most useful. The research will show how to design and implement a platform to connect landholders with industries interested in achieving net-zero targets. Researchers will work with communities to co-design an approach that meets their needs, and ensures they retain control of their own data and economic destiny.


CSIRO: Cathy Robinson (Project Leader), Andrew Reeson, Russ Wise, Alexander Krumpholz and Jennifer Macdonald