Why biodiversity is now big business

Why biodiversity is now big business

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Adrian Volders is showing how the environment can be commercialised.

Adrian Volders is showing how the environment can be commercialised.

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The environment can be commercialised, directly benefiting not just nature, but also landholders.

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HARDCORE environmentalist Adrian Volders is going way beyond the rhetoric, showing how the environment can be commercialised, directly benefiting not just nature, but also landholders.

Speaking at the Ipswich Chamber of Commerce's innovative Food and Agribusiness conference at Spicers Hidden Vale at Grandchester on Monday, Dr Volders explained how the Queensland Trust For Nature was developing increasingly valuable biodiversity credits.

"Queensland is one of the most mega-diverse places on earth," said Dr Volders, an environmental economist who chairs the QTFN .

"If you think about the environmental aspects Queensland has, it is unequalled anywhere else in the world.

"Just think about the world heritage forests of south east Queensland - miracles in their own right, Moreton Bay, the largest sand islands in the world, the largest intact tropical savannahs, the Great Barrier Reef and the world's oldest rainforest in the Daintree.

"They are incredible environmental assets."

Dr Volders said the conservation/financial opportunities lie in the fact the battle for the environmental future of the planet was going to be fought very much in Queensland.

"For me, as a environmental economist, this is an incredible business opportunity," he said.

For me, as a environmental economist, this is an incredible business opportunity. - Adrian Volders, Queensland Trust For Nature

"Central to everything we do are the laws of supply and demand.

"Demand for nature is going to become huger as the supply of it become less.

"It's a fundamental lesson of economics."

Dr Volders, who is also an adjunct professor at Griffith University, said Queensland was in the prime position because it was one of the few places in the world that had the landscape that could sequester enough carbon at high enough rates that could make a difference to climate change.

And that's where the opportunity for landholders is created. Most of the land in Queensland is managed by agriculture.

"It's one thing to say we're a conservation organisation," Dr Volders said.

"But if people want to invest in conservation, they need a product they can invest in.

"That's what we've been about for the last couple of years, coming up with a product where you can park your money.

"Biodiversity is our business."

Dr Volders said QTFN was in reality an investment fund with $12 million in property and $7.3m in its ethical investment fund, and that was expected to double in size over the next two years.

"We want to invest money and we want to give a return," he said.

"It might be a social return, it might be an environmental return, but it might also well be a financial return."

It's a far cry from the original Queensland Trust For Nature business model, which involved buying land, putting a covenant on it and selling it, losing money along the way.

"We've managed to completely turn the business around by getting into different environmental markets and creating different value streams for the business," Dr Volders said.

This included the development of koala offsets on the Mount Mort property Aroona and the purchase of a 400 hectare property in the Daintree, which has 200ha of land cleared for cattle.

Biodiversity offsets created on that northern property will be sold for $100/tonne, compared to the current market of $19/t for carbon credits.

MORE READING: 'We can double size of food and grocery manufacturing by 2030 says new report'.

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