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What are Reef Credits?

A turbid river plume can be seen emerging from the Russell-Mulgrave river mouth following several days of heavy rainfall.

The Reef Credits Scheme is an innovative, market-based approach to providing landholders and investors with financial returns for improving water quality on the Great Barrier Reef. Reef Credits work in a similar way to carbon credits, putting a monetary value on a service that a healthy ecosystem usually provides for free.

For example, a carbon credit represents a quantifiable, verified amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere – similarly, a Reef Credit represents a quantifiable, verified volume of pollutants (e.g. sediment, pesticides and dissolved inorganic nitrogen) removed from water flowing out to the Reef.

Environmental markets investor GreenCollar originally developed the Reef Credits scheme in partnership with Terrain NRM and NQ Dry Tropics, under the Queensland Government’s Major Integrated Projects initiative.

Why do we need to improve water quality for the Reef?

There is scientific consensus that accelerated local action on improving water quality is one of the most effective ways to safeguard the health of the Great Barrier Reef and help it withstand the effects of climate change.

Already, we have proven, science-based solutions for stopping waterborne pollutants at the source, before they reach the Reef. The main challenge for landholders and supporting organisations has been securing funding to implement these solutions at the scale required to make an impact on the health of the Reef.

How will Reef Credits help?

By putting a dollar value on reducing water pollutants, and generating tradeable units for sale, Reef Credits creates the potential for a new environmental market where supply and demand drives investment to new heights.

Reef Credits are an answer to the urgent need for a market-mechanism to support landholders who sustainably manage their land to ensure water quality is improved for the Reef.

To ensure that investment drives tangible outcomes for the environment, the value of Reef Credits has been purposely set to align with the pollutant reduction targets in the Reef 2050 Plan.

How are Reef Credits generated and who can buy them?

Landholders can diversify their sources of income by generating Reef Credits. They can create Reef Credits by taking proactive action to reduce pollutant run-off into the Reef catchment. For example, landholders can reduce run-off by remediating non-productive, degraded areas of their property such as eroding gullies.

By fixing eroding gullies like these, landholders in the Reef catchments can reduce soil loss and generate Reef Credits for the resulting improvement in water quality flowing to the Reef.

Landholders can work with Greening Australia and GreenCollar to ensure that their Reef Credits project passes the auditing process and achieves the verified reduction in pollutants needed to generate tradeable credits.

While GreenCollar facilitates the issuance and sale of the Reef Credits, Greening Australia will work with landholders to deliver the on-ground works to stop sediment pollutants at the source and ensure the verified reduction in sediment is met on the landholder’s behalf.

The generated Reef Credits can then be sold to those seeking to invest in water quality improvements, such as government, private business, and philanthropists.

What is Greening Australia’s involvement in Reef Credits?

Through our Reef Aid program, we are partnering with GreenCollar to explore generating Reef Credits from our wetland and gully restoration projects and are keen to see this environmental market grow and thrive so Australia can truly put the eco in economy.

We have plenty of experience in delivering these kinds of restoration projects to improve water quality for the Reef. On-ground works as part of Greening Australia’s Reef Aid program are already preventing more than 10,000 tonnes of sediment from reaching the Reef each year, and we have projects improving the filtering capacity of coastal wetlands from Cairns to Rockhampton.

Combining our experience with GreenCollar’s expertise in environmental markets, there is great potential for ramping up our activities to make a significant improvement to water quality for the Great Barrier Reef.

We are working to establish a collaborative mode of working between our two national environmental enterprises that can be replicated to remediate gullies and restore wetlands on properties across the Reef catchments.

To find out more or express your interest in being involved, please feel free to send us an online query.