KICKSTARTING CASSOWARY CREDITS
A NEW ECOSYSTEM MARKET
29 SEPTEMBER 2020
Terrain NRM has just completed a one-year project exploring the feasibility of a Cassowary Credits ecosystem service market, to benefit landholders and the natural environment. We are now moving on to phase two – getting cassowary credits up and running in the Wet Tropics region. Learn more here.
What are Cassowary Credits?
‘Cassowary Credits’ is a proposed market-based scheme to reward landholders who make changes for a public benefit. Like Carbon Credits and Reef Credits, Cassowary Credits are earned for a measurable improvement – in this case in rainforest habitat. They are an investment option for philanthropists and for government and corporate entities looking to offset their biodiversity impacts.
A cassowary credit is earned through rainforest reinstatement, repair, threat mitigation or enhanced protection. It is an innovative approach to nature conservation in the Wet Tropics region. It targets land that is unsuitable for agriculture, including sections within larger properties.
What is the ‘Kickstarting Cassowary Credits’ Project?
In this one-year project, Terrain NRM explored the feasibility of a cassowary credits scheme to attract investment for large-scale rainforest restoration in the Wet Tropics region. We investigated environmental markets and worked with landholders and land managers to determine how a market-based scheme could operate as an incentive. The goal was a regionally focused model that maximized participation by also benefitting the broader community and by addressing constraints on the uptake of market-based schemes in the Wet Tropics region. This project was funded by the Queensland Government’s Land Restoration Fund. The result is a cassowary credit scheme that is considered a feasible new ecosystem service market.
How the scheme works
The Cassowary Credits Scheme is structured similarly to carbon credit schemes. But it is tailored to the Wet Tropics region.
- A regional focus – incentivising large-scale rainforest restoration in the Wet Tropics.
- The ability to change the landscape without compromising agriculture in the region. There are about 50,000 hectares of land that would benefit from revegetation and ecosystem repair.
- A flexible permanence model – landholders can incentivise and participation isn’t limited.
- Financial viability – it allows credit (and grant) stacking, reduces auditing costs, generates more credits early on in a project and accounts for additional benefits to attract a premium price.
- Benefits for regional communities and Rainforest Aboriginal People through incentives and the use of regional service providers where possible.
Landholder projects are audited and payments are based on actual achievements. Investors buy verified improvements and a quantifiable contribution toward rainforest habitat improvement targets. Credits are issued when results are delivered and audited, guaranteeing a credible improvement to the Wet Tropics bioregion.
Why start-up this new environmental market?
Investment in rainforest restoration is currently small-scale and inconsistent in the Wet Tropics region. This scheme offers large-scale restoration to increase rainforest connectivity and climate change resilience for Wet Tropics rainforests.
More so than grant-focused restoration, a market-based approach ensures that payments for restoration are based on delivery of outcomes. It provides a transparent, consistent and scientifically robust mechanism for measuring and accounting for performance, with clear rules and consequences. A single administrative platform with independent, transparent and accountable governance oversight guarantees credibility and provides an enduring investment mechanism – beyond the timeframes of any government program. A market-based scheme also has the potential to attract corporate and philanthropic investment at scale.
The next steps
Phase Two of Cassowary Credits will finalise all scheme components, establish pilot projects and develop a marketing strategy to build momentum for a voluntary biodiversity market. The partnership of Terrain NRM, GreenCollar and the Queensland Government’s Land Restoration Fund will create a fully-functionable ecosystem service market as part of EcoMarkets Australia, the administrative body for Reef Credits.
Both schemes offer a more sustainable and long-term solution to funding activities that benefit the Wet Tropics environment.