Cousin Island has an ongoing programme to reduce its carbon footprint.
In recognition of the environmental impact of international visitors to the island, most of whom fly from Europe and reach the island by boat, Nature Seychelles which manages the island, has undertaken a rigorous approach to carbon neutrality. This has involved measuring all the emissions associated with the island, reviewing opportunities for on-going reductions and investing in high quality carbon credits.
In 2009, with the assistance of UK partner the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Carbon Clear a leading European carbon management company, was hired to assess the footprint of conservation and tourism activities on Cousin Island Special Reserve. Funding was received from the British High Commission in Seychelles to carry out the assessment.
The total emissions for Nature Seychelles’ activities on Cousin Island, including the allocations from visitor travel and the Nature Seychelles offices, in the calendar year 2008 amounted to approximately 1,569 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent – It represents the universal unit of measurement used to indicate the global warming potential (GWP) of all greenhouse gases).
However, incorporating emissions reductions of 211 tonnes (from CO2 sequestered by Cousin Island’s natural tropical vegetation) the final footprint prior to offsetting was calculated at 1,358 tonnes of CO2e.
The remainder of this footprint was offset using carbon credits from a clean cook stove project in Sudan reducing the Island’s emissions to net zero. It provides modern stoves to low-income families to replace their traditional 3-stone fires that rely on unsustainable wood sources. The modern stoves reduce greenhouse gas emissions by moving away from wood and charcoal to more efficient fuels and cook-stoves. The switch to efficient fuels also reduces indoor air pollution and improves health for the participating families. This programme is administered by local women’s cooperatives.
Why Carbon Credits?
Whilst managing the footprint to ensure that emissions are kept to an unavoidable minimum, for a small country like Seychelles, tourism is essential to the economy and given its remoteness, visitors can only arrive by aeroplane. Therefore, it is not possible to reduce these emissions directly and carbon offsetting is the most realistic option in these circumstances to mitigate impact.
Keeping Cousin carbon neutral is an on-going programme advised by Carbon Clear. Each year carbon credits are purchased through investment in verified projects in poor and developing countries. Two other projects in Indonesia and Brazil have been recipients of the carbon offsets funds so far. The Brazilian project prevents deforestation and protects the Cerrado Biome by using agricultural waste in place of deforested wood to fire community based ceramic kilns. The Indonesian project made a number of vital upgrades to an existing conventional power station coal to make it geo-thermal.