Imagine a world where for every unit of carbon produced a tree was planted in Conway National Park to offset its effects.
This world could be closer to reality as the Whitsunday Climate Change Innovation Hub, an initiative of the Whitsunday Regional Council, are taking expressions of interest for businesses who wish to become carbon neutral and offset their emissions in local projects.
In layman’s terms, Climate Change Innovation Hub Coordinator Olivia Brodhurst said going carbon neutral involves working out your carbon footprint and doing everything you can to reduce it, for example installing solar panels, changing to an electric car and going paperless.
But in today’s world, and especially in the Whitsundays where tourism is thriving and boats still need to run on fuel, it is near impossible to go completely carbon free.
This is where carbon offsetting comes in.
For unavoidable emissions, Ms Brodhurst explained that businesses can invest in programs that work to have a positive impact on the climate and environment such as tree planting, pest control and improving water quality.
“At the moment anybody in the region who wants to purchase offsets are sending their money elsewhere,” she said.
“People here want to invest in projects that are local.
“Obviously there a co-benefits from an offsetting project; anything that you do might produce an offset but it also has a benefit to the environment, for example improving water quality in farms.
“It would be ideal if we had these projects available locally.”
While there aren’t any concrete plans at this stage for what projects could be introduced into the area, Ms Brodhurst said that schemes would be tailored to suit the industries in the Whitsundays.
“Some projects will be more appealing to people than others so hopefully as we get more projects, we can develop a couple and people might be able to have some options,” she said.
“Here it will probably be changing or improving grazing practices, improving soil carbon and improving forest cover, reducing grazing, actively planting and weed control and pest control to allow natural regeneration.”
Many businesses across the Whitsundays are already embracing carbon offset schemes including Red Cat Adventures who were the first business in the region to achieve Climate Action Leader accreditation through Eco Tourism Australia.
Owner of Red Cat Adventures Julie Telford said one of the boats as well as the office and some areas of the resort operate as carbon neutral.
“We offset 52 tonnes of unavoidable carbon emissions last year,” she said.
“We are doing a lot of solar out of the resort and have also made the water tanks in the resort electronic, so we’re not pumping water if it doesn’t need to be pumped and the electricity bill has decreased by 50 per cent because of this.
“We also offer all of our passengers the choice to offset their carbon emissions similar to an aeroplane.”
Red Cat Adventures invested in a new, more efficient vessel, Thundercat III, that would also save 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year.
Mrs Telford said her decision to go carbon neutral was two-fold with her own environmental awareness as one reason and the increase in enviro-conscious tourism the other.
“The way people are travelling at the moment is climate smart, and they are becoming a lot more concerned about the environment,” she said.
“As a tourism business it is really important that we have the best eco certification we can get because travellers are starting to think about what they’re doing and the impact of what they’re doing.”
Red Cat Adventures offset their emissions through an investment in CarbonNeutrals Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor plantings and international wind farm initiatives.
However, Mrs Telford said if carbon offsetting schemes were made local it could encourage more businesses to get involved.
“If we have something like that available to businesses here, people will invest more in offsetting their carbon because it will benefit them directly.”
Expressions of interest in the carbon offsetting scheme can be submitted here.
Source: Whitsunday Times.