Lifestyle-block owners claim carbon credits with help of NZ tech firm

If people could earn carbon credits for every tree they had growing in their backyard, they might currently be entitled to a dollar or two per year for each tree.

But as it is, land-owners need to have a hectare of land to benefit from farming carbon credits under current legislation, which is designed to make the issuance of carbon credits manageable.

Even then, it has been difficult in practice for individuals, including those who own lifestyle blocks, to claim credits for reforesting such small blocks of land.

That is changing though, thanks to Nelson-based start-up CarbonCrop which is aiming to build a global niche in taking the hassle out of claiming credits on blocks of land as small as one hectare.

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When Ron, a retired motelier who wanted to be identified only by his first name, decided to buy a 7 hectare block of land between Kaeo and Mangōnui in Northland in 2015 to live on and permanently reforest, he found earning and selling carbon credits was something of a big boys’ game.

He wanted to reforest the hillside property, which was Mostly grass but had a small patch of native bush, to make a permanent contribution to the environment.

“I’m very comfortable leaving it, not as a legacy, but knowing it will become a small pocket of bush over time.”

He started off by planting in Manuka and since then has had success with natives including matai, kowhai and pigeonwood.

“It can be a little bit of hard work obviously and sometimes I get frustrated because trees take a little while to grow, but it is very rewarding.

“What I’d like to do is put a Covenant on it. We’re probably looking at about 500 years before it really turns into proper forest. ”

For him, the possibility of earning carbon credits was just a bonus.

“I couldn’t find out anything about carbon credits really. It is very difficult to get anything Sensible out of the Government websites. ”

But he is expecting his first annual receipt of carbon credits worth about $ 2000 in the next few weeks, after getting CarbonCrop to deal with the red tape and then set him up with a carbon-credit account.

“I got in touch with CarbonCrop to get set up and they did everything from that point.”

MARTIN DE RUYTER / STUFF

Coastal Wetlands could be an important source of carbon credits – blue carbon – to support Restoration projects and support fragile eco-systems (video first published in October).

Overall, he expects the reforested land will earn a total of about $ 136,000 in credits.

“It goes up progressively, Peaks and then starts to decline.”

Ron has now also found a business, Transpower subsidiary EmsTradePoint, through which they expects to be able to sell the credits once they do start to flow.

“If you’re a large company, then it’s no problem trading credits, but for an individual it’s very difficult,” he says.

EmsTradePoint was the only option they could find that allowed it.

CarbonCrop co-founder Nick Butcher says it found there were a lot of people who were put off by the application process for carbon credits, which is Complicated for some good reasons.

To earn credits, landowners need to electronically map the land to certain technical standards and get an aerial imagery to prove that it was not in the forest for some time between 1990 and 2008, he says.

The value of credits they receive and the length of time they will receive them will also depend on the species that is growing on the land, ranging from about $ 700 per hectare per year for up to about 100 years for slower-growing natives to about $ 1400 a hectare for faster-growing pines, he says.

When it comes to applying for credits, “a lot of it’s just knowing what you have to provide on form and the necessary supporting data,” Butcher says.

“Professional forestry companies have staff to do this, but for the typical landowner it usually just ends up in the ‘too hard basket’.”

Butcher says CarbonCrop uses artificial intelligence to pull together and if necessary “de-blur” data from the likes of satellite images and aerial Photographs, creating “a nice little data bundle that we can send to the regulator”.

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Make these easy changes to household habits and you’ll shave about 10 per cent off your annual carbon emissions.

“You can pull up an image from an old website, but the work required to actually turn that into something that meets the potential threshold for registration is quite significant.”

Applying for credits through a specialist forestry consultant is another option, but Butcher says some landowners are put off by non-refundable, upfront fees.

CarbonCrop charges a fee of 10 per cent of carbon credits earned on blocks up to 50 hectares, with volume reductions after that, and no charge if applications are unsuccessful.

Butcher is now interested in encouraging the planting of the native bush.

“If you retire marginal farmland and return it to high-biodiversity, native bush I think that’s worth doing.

“I don’t like the fact that the carbon price is driving mass, exotic forestation which may not be what we want as a Nation.”

But as a business, CarbonCrop is switching up a gear to a faster growth path itself.

The company, which employs 20 staff, has appointed former Timely chief revenue officer and Xero marketing manager Jo Blundell as its chief executive.

Timely is a Wellington cloud software firm that was sold for more than $ 100 million last year.

CarbonCrop has also just raised $ 1.9 million in its second seed funding round.

CarbonCrop has Hired the chief revenue Officer of tech success story Timely, Jo Blundell, as its chief executive as it embarks on another growth spurt.

supplied / Stuff

CarbonCrop has Hired the chief revenue Officer of tech success story Timely, Jo Blundell, as its chief executive as it embarks on another growth spurt.

Investors in the business include The Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall’s K1W1 fund and government Grants agency Callaghan Innovation.

The New Zealand market, where CarbonCrop has more than 1,000 hectares of forest registered or in train to earn credits, is growing fast.

Butcher says about $ 400m-worth of carbon credits are issued to Foresters each year.

About another $ 1b of entitlements to credits from forest growth for the five years between 2018 and 2022 will expire at the end of this year if landowners don’t put their skates on and register claims, he says.

He wants CarbonCrop to also become an international company and help drive forest restoration globally, with its next move likely to be into a country in South-East Asia or South America.

“If it’s not one of those two I’d be surprised.”

Encouraging tree-planting by making carbon credits easier to claim is not a silver bullet for tackling climate change, but can make a Worthwhile contribution, Butcher believes.

“We need to suck 10 gigatons of carbon out of the atmosphere. Best case scenario, you might do one or two with forestry.

“We really need to do it. There’s way too much carbon in the atmosphere. ”

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