Development of an offset financial contribution calculator for Reef Trust
Led by: Assoc Prof Martine Maron, UQ
This project will progress an approach for incorporating environmental offsets into the Reef Trust through development of a prototype calculator to assist potential approval holders and relevant agencies in determining appropriate financial payments as offsets under the Reef Trust. It will extend the methodology currently used to calculate terrestrial offsets to the marine setting. It will delineate clearly the differences in applying such a calculator to the marine–catchment continuum and terrestrial settings. A draft prototype will be tested for its consistency with operational needs and practicality among key stakeholders.
The unique challenges of offsetting impacts on the marine environment include very high connectivity, substantial temporal and spatial variability, and high system complexity and uncertainty. Attributing environmental impacts and benefits to particular activities that may occur in either the marine or the terrestrial environment (including diffuse impacts) is particularly challenging. Accordingly, a simple application of the EPBC Act offsets assessment guide to the marine system is not appropriate. Appropriate costing of benefits from marine offset projects must reflect the uncertainty (e.g. in time lags, efficacy of actions and confounding external influences) and interdependencies inherent to marine ecosystems. It will reflect the true cost of implementing offset actions to achieve the desired ecological targets, with a “risk premium” pricing model that mitigates some uncertainties associated with offsetting impacts on the marine environment. This is central to ensuring that third parties are not saddled with liability for providing environmental benefits without adequate funds or realistic timeframes.
How Research Addresses Problem
This project will develop a defensible and robust approach for accounting for additionality and uncertainty in estimating benefits of particular actions, and costing those actions, to help guide decision-making about appropriate financial contributions to the Reef Trust as offsets for particular impacts.
Offsets; Financial equivalence; Pay-off; Uncertainty; Risk premium.
This project is jointly funded through UQ, JCU, MCF and the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme.