Reef Credits stopping sediment pollution

The emerging water quality credit market, specifically the Reef Credits Scheme, is turning an environmental crisis into an impact investment opportunity. Credits are issued for quantifiable reductions in water pollutants reaching the Great Barrier Reef – of which sediment is one example. 

Canopy and Greening Australia are working to develop investible projects that reduce sediment run-off through gully rehabilitation, and partnering with GreenCollar, Australia’s largest environmental markets developer, to bring these projects at scale to the market for investment through the use of Reef Credits.

Poor water quality weakens the ability of Reef ecosystems to live through and recover from climate change impacts, such as coral bleaching. Fine sediment pollutants that wash out to the Reef lagoon stay suspended in the water, blocking sunlight, smothering coral and sea grass, and consequently affecting the health of fish and sea turtles.

While climate change is a global threat all countries must work together to address, poor water quality is a local responsibility and a tractable issue. 90 percent of the sediment pollutants that end up in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon come from the land, predominantly from eroding gullies and stream banks.

With support from government, philanthropists and businesses, Greening Australia’s Reef Aid program has worked with landholders to conduct major trials of different techniques to rehabilitate eroding gullies, building on existing research and initiatives. In the process, they achieved an average 80-90% improvement in water quality leaving restored gullies, and in five years of the program have stopped over 22,000 tonnes of sediment from reaching the Reef (equivalent to more than 500 fully loaded semi-trailers). 

These projects are also able to deliver a slew of benefits beyond water quality improvements, such as carbon storage, habitat for critical species, more productive grazing land, local jobs and support for Indigenous-led enterprises. That makes these nature-based solutions key prospects for environmental financing and impact investment, and for delivering diverse income streams for landholders and Indigenous groups. 

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