This week on the Journal we sit down with Finn Ross, founder of the newly-launched Carbonz; a platform providing Kiwis - like us! - with the opportunity to invest in and/or offset their emissions with traceable, tradeable, native carbon credits. As a business, we’ve secured our carbon credits through Carbonz to offset our emissions for the year 2021.
In our conversation, we chat to Finn about why people are calling Carbonz “the Sharesies of carbon credits” and the importance of protecting and restoring native New Zealand forest in the climate crisis - and why this work has been so underfunded.
To learn more, visit www.carbonz.io
Congratulations on the launch of Carbonz! How do you see your business changing the industry of accessible and transparent carbon credits for businesses and individuals in Aotearoa?
This is the first time these types of credits are available, which means we can finally assign value to native New Zealand forest which will increase their protection and restoration across New Zealand farmland. Sheep and beef farms make up 40% of NZ landmass, so having an incentive to protect native forest not only has potential for large-scale positive impact on biodiversity and climate, but it’s also a win for businesses and investors. Many Kiwi businesses are already meeting net-zero targets and have sustainability practices throughout their supply chain, so as consumers continue to demand climate-friendly products, offsetting emissions is becoming more important for the reputation of those businesses.
Further to the above; you’ve been described as “the Sharesies of carbon credits”. Why was it important to you to democratize access to carbon credits for everyday Kiwis wanting to offset their emissions or hold onto them as an ethical investment?
Currently it is difficult for Kiwis to invest in carbon credits - both on the Emissions Trading Scheme and in the voluntary carbon market. We want every Kiwi, no matter the size of their bank account to be able to purchase native NZ carbon credits.
Carbonz has referred to the limitations of our country’s reliance on pine trees as a form of carbon credit, for example pine doesn’t provide the same biodiversity as native bush, as well as a potential plateau of carbon returns after 30+ years. But NZ native bush remains undervalued and it’s reforestation is severely underfunded, why do you think this is? And do you think there’s a place for both pine and native bush? Is pine a great short-term solution because building native forest takes time?
Our perspective on pine forests is quite simple; New Zealand has a strong timber industry and we would like to see this continue to thrive. Carbon credits from pine forests are an important co-benefit and should be given to pine plantations that will ultimately be harvested. However we believe it should be illegal to plant pine trees in perpetuity for carbon, as is currently being facilitated by some investors. Both forest types absolutely have their role to play and finally now we can put a value on regenerating natives.
Are there limitations to offering a range of prices and price-tiered carbon credits in a country as small as Aotearoa?
The intention with Carbonz is to develop an increasingly liquid exchange for carbon credits with a floating price. These credits will ultimately be sold internationally so Kiwi landowners get the highest price for their credits. We are confident there is a market for both our credit types in NZ and overseas.
And lastly, you’ve alluded to your ambitions to offer a variety of environmental assets for customers to choose from, and there are such great examples of credit options in other parts of the world like large-scale wind projects in Turkey which offer country-level benefits such as local employment opportunities and increased social stability as well as environmental outcomes. Are there any future Carbonz plans you can share with us?
The two we would love to introduce are biodiversity credits and blue carbon credits, however we’re still in project development on both of these. Biodiversity credits are funds used to support conservation projects traded in a commodity or token form, for example one biodiversity credit could represent one kiwi protected or one stoat removed. Whereas blue carbon credits are marine carbon credits given to managers restoring mangrove, seagrass or salt marsh ecosystems which are sequestering carbon.