At the Cologne Carbon Expo

Published 28 May 2014 
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Jeroen in conversation with a delegate of World Vision Australia<br/> Jeroen in conversation with a delegate of World Vision Australia

Carbon trading is a funny thing. On the one hand it has the potential to unlock huge amounts of funds to speed up our conservation works, on the other hand the frameworks created to rule the many different aspects of this emerging market are so complex that for every productive idea there are at least ten reasons why this idea will never be realised. BHA Victorian reserve manager Jeroen van Veen travelled to Cologne, Germany this week, at the invitation of the Victorian state government, to explore if overseas money could be attracted to the land around the BHA reserves like Nardoo Hills to ameliorate the threat posed by the fragmentation of the landscape there.

Carbon investments have previously come to our area of interest at Wedderburn, Victoria, and have funded the revegetation of some 3000 hectares of land adjacent and nearby Nardoo Hills. This has mainly made its way to this area through one of our partner organisations, Cassinia Environmental, the CEO of which has travelled to Germany together with Jeroen. Even though this has already made a significant impact, the volume is not nearly enough to stop further decline of rare and threatend species and we now need more funds from overseas to create enough new biodiversity plantings to have the desired effect of a stabile and balanced ecosytem in the natural landscape that Nardoo Hills is a part of.

Cologne is the largest annual carbon trade fair in the world and is a meeting place where funders (clients) meet providers (off-set companies) and third parties (auditors, legal firms, government pofficials) to agree on deals. People travel from as far apart as Japan, Ecuador and Qatar to attend this expo and there are quite a number of Australian parties represented. There are presentations, speeches and policy launches and the program is full of fora, discussion panel sessions and plenaries, but the most interesting bits take place in the corridors, where ideas have test runs, partners are found and deals are forged.

This year the atmosphere at the Carbon Expo is a mix of two opposing sentiments. On the one hand people bemoan a decline in business and low prices, on the other hand there is this optimism as the world seems to be clearly moving towards a comprehensive, all encompassing climate change deal at Paris next year December. That possible deal, expected because the interests of China, the EU and the USA seem to be ligning up for the first time, would be a game changer. These discussions are hard to watch as an Australian as it is repeatedly made clear that Australia and Canada will be expected to be the only ones left out. Appetite for investment in Australia appears low partly because of the politics, but also because many consider it strange to invest in new forests in a fellow first world country instead of a third world destination, where help is needed to solve climate change related problems.

Despite all that, several meetings during the first day produce interesting leads that will need to be followed up at a later date. Of particular interest is the meeting with a German carbon broker firm with which Jeroen has had dealings in the past. In 2010 he brought this party together with an Australian contractor at World Vision and together they then created a very succesfull forestry project in Ethiopia. At this meeting the German firm confides it is attempting to create a new USD50m fund to start new biodiversity and land use programs that would need new projects to get its teeth into. Australia would be one of a number of possible destination of projects they would like to target for funding this way. Paul Dettmann, CEO of Cassinia Environmental, and Jeroen were particulalry happy to have consolidated this contact as it sounds all very promising. This German operator has a good reputation and has reportedly done very good work in Panama, Ecuador, Vietnam and Ethiopia in the last 14 years. We'd love to have them fund urgently needed biolinking work around Wedderburn, St Arnaud and other BHA priority areas.

Jeroen will stay in Cologne for two more days to attempt to generate more international interest in contributing to our landscape plans in Victoria, NSW and WA. Tomorrow a second blog will continue where this one leaves off.

Jeroen in conversation with a delegate of World Vision Australia<br/> Jeroen in conversation with a delegate of World Vision Australia