Australia Wants to Turn Wilderness Restoration Into an Investable Market | Kanebridge News
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Australia Wants to Turn Wilderness Restoration Into an Investable Market

Some are questioning whether there will be demand for so-called biodiversity credits

By ALICE URIBE
Tue, Apr 11, 2023 8:26amGrey Clock 4 min

SYDNEY—Northern Australia’s tropical coast used to have a vast covering of lush rainforest that supported the cassowary, often called the world’s most dangerous bird. Now, one organization is developing a program they say will encourage landowners to reforest the area and create a habitat for native species.

Their plan: Cassowary Credits.

“The idea of the Cassowary Credit was about bringing in the large-scale investment that’s needed to really do that work to protect the valleys of the region from climate change,” said Sarah Hoyal, biodiversity and climate leader at nonprofit environmental group Terrain Natural Resource Management, which wants to sell credits to investors that are valued by how much land is restored to its native state over time.

Australia’s government has similar plans, albeit on a larger scale. On March 29, the government introduced legislation to create a nationwide market for so-called biodiversity credits, the first large advanced economy to undertake such an effort.

Australia is betting that businesses will be hungry to buy credits as they face pressure from shareholders and customers to be more socially responsible. If the market flourishes, Australia could be a model for harnessing money from the private sector to reverse environmental losses, but the plan is facing skepticism from investors and industry groups questioning how the credits will be valued and what will drive demand for them.

“Until there is an economic return, you will not get investors coming to nature projects except on a philanthropic basis, or some early stage voluntary action,” said Martijn Wilder, chief executive of Pollination, an advisory and investment company. The legislation is a good start, he said, but more needs to be done to show it can work.

Australia’s government argues that the plan offers a way for companies to invest in managing the environment without having to buy land. The market will also give landowners extra income, overcoming one of the roadblocks to conservation, and create jobs for indigenous communities that become involved in restoring the land, said Tanya Plibersek, the country’s environment minister.

Under Australia’s scheme, landowners would get a credit, in the form of a certificate, for conducting repair or preservation projects on their property. This credit can be sold on to businesses and individuals. To help these investors figure out how much each credit is worth, information such as how much land is being repaired or how long it will take will be disclosed. The credits would be tracked via a public register and overseen by a regulator.

How Australia tackles these issues could offer lessons for other countries considering ways to prevent nature loss. The U.N.’s environmental arm estimates that $384 billion annually—more than double current levels—needs to be invested by 2025 to protect against climate, biodiversity and land degradation.

Australia’s plan illustrates how some governments don’t think they can fill the funding gap alone and want the private sector to step up. Conservation efforts have largely focused on national parks or wildlife refuges. But with more than 60% of land in Australia owned privately, officials say that is no longer enough.

“We live in the extinction capital of the world—losing more mammals to extinction than any other continent,” said Ms. Plibersek.

The concept of using credits to achieve an environmental goal isn’t new. The European Union and several U.S. states allow trading in carbon credits as part of programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A challenge for Australia’s scheme, however, is figuring out how to value nature itself.

“Biodiversity is inherently more complex than carbon and thus less divisible into interchangeable units,” said Dr. Jody Gunn, chief executive of the Australian Land Conservation Alliance, which represents organisations working to protect nature. “How many koalas is worth a hectare of protected rainforest?”

Some businesses will buy from the market voluntarily when it opens, but it remains to be seen that there will be enough to sustain the market in the short term, she said. That means the government would need to step in and become an active investor, Dr. Gunn said.

Ms. Plibersek said the government hasn’t decided whether to invest in nature projects, but the legislation allows it to do so.

As lawmakers figure out the mechanics of the market, some organisations are plowing ahead with separate plans to develop credits.

Wilderlands, an Australian company, sells credits for several projects, including the rehabilitation of privately owned land in South Australia state that was once used to graze cattle. The purpose of the project is to allow native animals and plants to thrive on the land, and not to use it for agriculture, said Wilderlands, which runs a marketplace for the credits. Buyers of its credits include Lendlease Group, a $3.38 billion Australian construction company, and Monash University, which wanted to showcase efforts to protect nature to its students.

In the northern tropics, much of the coastal lowland habitat of the cassowary has been cleared for farms and the growth of towns. The area is also threatened by cyclones, diseases such as avian tuberculosis and wild dogs. These threats have increasingly driven the bird, which can grow to two meters tall, to higher ground. The cassowary is listed by the government as endangered,

Restoring its lowland habitat will be a slow process. The value of Terrain’s proposed credit is tied to how the rainforest recovers at various points over 25 years. Terrain is developing its credits separately from the government’s effort to establish a national market and is awaiting further details before deciding if its own credits can be part of it.

“It will be 500 years before it’ll look like the rainforest that’s there now,” said Terrain’s Ms. Hoyal. “But it’ll be a substantial habitat at 25 years.”



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AACCI’s Strategic Vision for Enhancing Australia-Arab Trade Relations

The Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) is fostering robust trade relations between Australia and Arab countries.

Mon, May 20, 2024 5 min

In an era where global trade and international relationships are more crucial than ever, the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) serves as a bridge, for cooperation and growth between Australia and the Arab nations. Led by its Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Hage, the AACCI has taken on projects aimed at strengthening relationships and fostering development across borders.

This exclusive interview explores the initiatives implemented by the AACCI to expand its presence and influence in the region including the significant establishment of a new operational hub in Dubai. We also delve into how the Chamber embraces education through training and research, its participation in major international exhibitions, and its active support for both large corporations and small businesses.

Looking towards tomorrow, Mr. Mohamed shares his vision for broadening AACCI’s reach emphasizing the importance of the on-ground operations and cultural understanding in building business connections.

-Could you elaborate on the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry, including its objectives and main areas of focus?

The Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) plays a fundamental role, in promoting business partnerships and trade between Australia and the 22 Arab countries. As a member of the Union of Arab Chambers affiliated with the Arab League, AACCI focuses on strengthening trade and investment ties, across these countries.

To nurture these connections effectively AACCI has outlined four objectives: facilitating trade and investment activities, certifying documents, educating stakeholders, and offering marketing assistance.

Our initiatives are designed not only to empower trade and investment endeavors but to also ensure engagement with specific sectors that drive these activities. With an understanding of the characteristics, strengths and preferences of each country, AACCI prides itself on its specialized knowledge customized to suit the distinct business environments of these nations.

– As the AACCI approaches its 50th anniversary, what have been some of the key milestones and achievements?

I believe one of AACCI’s accomplishments is the opportunities it has opened up for numerous Australian companies to access markets, in the region. Moreover, the strong bilateral trade relationship that has developed between Australia and the 22 Arab nations over the five decades has led to trade transactions amounting to billions of dollars.

This extensive trade covers industries such as food and beverages, luxury hotels and many more services. Each successive generation, within AACCI has built upon the foundation laid by its predecessors enriching their knowledge base and expanding their range of services.

– How does the AACCI leverage its diverse leadership team to enhance trade and investment opportunities between Australia and the Arab region?

Since taking on the role of chairman, my main focus has been on expanding our presence in the region. This led to the idea of opening an office in Dubai, which symbolizes our dedication to deepening our engagement in that area. We have successfully secured the license to open our first office in Dubai after 50 years, which will serve as a gateway to the GCC and North Africa.

I strongly believe that building two-way trade and investment ties requires more than a degree of business connectivity; it demands having local representatives present in each region. With trends emphasizing strategies the value of face-to-face engagements cannot be overstated.

Setting up offices in the region is essential for the Chamber to truly serve as a link and support system for business activities. Ultimately this expansion will bring benefits to our members and partners by providing them with access, to dynamic markets and diverse prospects.

– Can you discuss the significance of AACCI’s role in cultural and business exchanges between the two regions?

The importance of understanding cultures in our operations cannot be overstated. To address this, we have included a training platform within the Chamber to strengthen our cultural awareness initiatives. This new program offers our members access to modules on our website focusing on global business practices.

Furthermore, we have set up a Center of Excellence specifically dedicated to researching areas like food security and cultural awareness. These research endeavors are essential for promoting knowledge between the two regions.

By combining the resources of the Center of Excellence, our training resources, and the forthcoming local office in Dubai, we’re providing cultural awareness not only in the region but also in Australia. This approach ensures that our members are well equipped and knowledgeable boosting their effectiveness and involvement, in markets.

– What is the objective of your on-ground presence at conferences and events?

Participating in conferences and on ground events is very important for increasing awareness in industries like construction where knowledge of opportunities in the Arab world may not be widespread. When we see projects such as NEOM or notice the construction boom happening in the region it becomes important for organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to highlight these prospects. By taking part in large scale expos such as the Sydney Build Expo we position ourselves at the forefront of these advancements.

Our presence at these events enables interaction giving entrepreneurs a chance to visit our booth engage in discussions and learn more about the region in an approachable and personalized manner. This plays a role in simplifying the process and making opportunities concrete.

– With such a diverse membership base, how does AACCI tailor its services to meet the needs of both large corporations and small startups?

When it comes to discussing business it’s important to grasp how influence and vision come into play. Businesses looking to expand are often motivated by a desire to achieve something whether they are big companies or small enterprises. Small businesses typically aim to raise their brands profile while larger corporations seek recognition and market dominance.

Standing out in this area can be tough mainly because the key driving force is the passion to showcase the brand and products on a platform. This determination serves as a motivator for entrepreneurs.

At the Chamber we make a point of recognizing the needs of both big and small players by understanding each members individual situation. We ensure that every member is well informed about the opportunities and risks that come with expanding. For small businesses, this means being aware of the financial demands, while large businesses are advised on the necessity of both financial and emotional resilience.

– How does AACCI plan to expand or evolve its services in the coming years to further support its members?

The importance of having resources on the ground cannot be emphasized enough. Having local staff is key to establishing connections with the communities we serve. Without a presence in the area staying updated on events and activities becomes quite challenging.

This is why, as I’ve mentioned before, we have established an office in Dubai, staffed with personnel dedicated to supporting our members. This local office will help us effectively bridge the gap between Australia and the Arab world. And our members will benefit from insights and assistance from someone who truly knows the landscape.

In Australia we have equipped offices throughout the country staffed by individuals who play a significant role in our operations. This strong domestic network complements our efforts ensuring that we provide support to our members both locally and globally. This strategic approach is crucial, for nurturing business relationships and fostering continental understanding.

 

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