Sealord, one of NZ’s largest seafood companies, is partnering with NZ Māori landowners as part of an NZ $10m carbon offset project to grow permanent forests in the Rotorua region.
It comes after the NZ Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, told a carbon forest conference last week that the country needs 700,000 hectares of exotic and indigenous forests to meet its climate commitments.
The seafood company will invest over ten years in the Ara Rakau programme – a Te Arawa Fisheries joint initiative and NZ Carbon Farming.
Thousands of permanent forests will be established in the Rotorua region, which will not be included in exotic plantations.
The project will help offset some of Sealord’s carbon emissions, maximise the potential of marginal land, and create jobs. It will also improve environmental conditions, including water quality in Te Arawa lakes.
According to Te Arawa Fisheries CEO Chris Karamea Insley, the project showcases the potential opportunities that carbon trading provides.
In recent months, carbon markets have been under siege, with Reuters reporting over the weekend that carbon markets have shrunk for the first time in seven years.
It comes as Gucci and Nestle – committed to planting 200 million trees globally – are now reducing their exposure to the market.
Carbon offsets are a once-in-a-generation opportunity for NZ Māori
However, Mr Insley insists that carbon markets offer a transformational opportunity for Māori landowners.
“The Emissions Trading Scheme represents a $16 [NZD] billion economic opportunity for Māori – one which will be transformative for generations… to generate better economic, cultural, social and environmental outcomes…”
The ETS is NZ’s leading climate strategy and is currently subject to reform, which could lead to a separate market for permanent and exotic forests.
Under the offset program, Seaford will also address carbon pollution “whilst driving financial benefits for the (Māori) clan,” Mr Insley noted.
“And creating new jobs and improving water quality is a win-win-win for everybody,” Mr Insley noted.
The new program will support the company’s Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions
According to Sealord CEO Doug Paulin, the carbon offset project supports the company’s ESG commitments to reduce scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.
As reported by Carbon Credits, Sealord has already lowered its total carbon emissions by 24% since 2019.
Reductions have been achieved through various means, including fuel optimisation, investing in new vessels, and cutting the use of fossil fuels in land-based operations.
As it stands, vessel fuel is responsible for 94% of Sealord’s total carbon emissions. And since its baseline year (2019), the company has removed 25,200 tonnes of CO2e from its NZ business operations.
The company is pushing to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and its NZ commitments are offsetting emissions through Australian aquaculture farms.
While Selord acknowledges that reaching its carbon emissions targets remains challenging, Carbon Credits reports that its operations have limited options for further improvements.
This is where carbon offsets serve as the company’s final option in mitigating its climate impact.
Mr Paulin said carbon offsets are a stop-gap measure as the company waits for new engine technology and fuel sources to be developed and commercially viable.
“…we have decided that we must invest now to enable Sealord to have options in the future so we can meet our carbon commitments.”
This could include hydrogen technology – with electricity and hydrogen-powered vehicles expected to replace petroleum vehicles over the next decade.
Forest Offsets Create Local Investment and Development
The NZ Carbon Farming will manage the forestry offset project and tree planting.
The NZ Carbon Farming director, Matt Welsh, said the offset deal allows the groups to work collaboratively to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss.
It also raises the chance to manage a forestry project that aligns with Mātauranga Māori or Māori knowledge in establishing best practices for forest management.
The Māori people have extensive experience in nurturing exotic or native crops and transitioning them to a biodiverse native environment. So, enlisting their help and support would be necessary for the project.
“The forest carbon sequestration will also unlock new local development and investment doors,” Mr Welsh said.
The carbon offsets, or carbon credits, will provide revenue streams for the developer and the local community.
In this case, the Māori tribe. Each carbon offset credit represents a tonne of carbon removed or sequestered through trees or other elements.