Melissa and Bob, with Natalie Stoeckl, have a piece just out on The Conversation:

The Conversation

Should offsets fund the Coalition’s reef plan?

By Melissa Bos, James Cook University

On Monday, the Coalition announced its plan for the Great Barrier Reef, including a A$40m trust-fund to target threats to the Reef such as Crown of Thorns starfish and runoff from agriculture.

The promises will be funded partially from offset money, generated through the environmental approval process for projects that could adversely affect the reef in various ways. While we don’t know exactly how much offsets will contribute to the fund, current approval decisions by the Federal environment department already require A$185m in marine offsets from development projects. If the Coalition plan will rely on a fund of similar magnitude, they need to take offset design very seriously.

Offsets are a way to channel private funds into reef conservation. Shadow environment minister Greg Hunt is certainly right in saying that, to effectively manage the reef, we need a more strategic approach to investing private money. The reef might have world-leading zoning – demarcated areas, showing which activities can take place in each location – but current offset investment schemes are far behind world’s best practice.

So, let’s have a look at how offsets might work for the Great Barrier Reef, and how we can learn from mistakes elsewhere…

Read the full article at The Conversation.