Investing in our national parks can offset carbon emissions, combat climate change and build the ‘green’ infrastructure that is critical to our nation’s future.
There are currently billions of dollars available in carbon markets – and this can provide the funds required to revegetate large tracts of land in national parks and even help establish new national parks.
In Australia, thousands of individuals and organisations are making voluntary commitments to offset the carbon emissions they generate. Greenfleet, for example, is supported by everyone from families wanting to offset their annual car use to companies with a commitment to corporate social responsibility. Together, these commitments have helped us plant more than 8.5 million native trees in 400 native and biodiverse forests.
Greenfleet and other sources of carbon offsets have access to funds to plant trees, and national parks need finance to support the work they do. Connecting the two requires a new model to enable us to access carbon rights on public land.
While most protected areas are financed through government grants or private philanthropies, we need to adjust our thinking – and our economic models – to enable national parks to access private sector money.
This issue was enthusiastically explored at the recent international World Parks Congress in Sydney. The Congress brought together more than 3,000 delegates from 160 countries to explore nature-based solutions to global challenges such as climate change.
Greenfleet is already working on a number of projects to plant native biodiverse forests around Australia. We have planted more than one million trees for Parks Victoria, and are currently partnering with Thredbo to enable visitors to offset their emissions by planting trees in Kosciuszko National Park.
Our challenge is to create a new economic model that connects the money generated by good corporate and individual citizens with national parks operating on shoe-string budgets.
This will mean exploring all of the elements of a forest that can be aligned to a financial mechanism. We have already done this with carbon sequestration. Now we need to add biodiversity offsets, water quality improvements, flood mitigation and air quality management.
Greenfleet is investigating financial mechanisms for all of these elements, which will effectively mean that we have brought forests directly into the value system of our economy.
Wayne Wescott is the Chief Executive Officer of Greenfleet