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Making waves in the Australian blue carbon market with BHPs grants program

Three organizations have been named as recipients of BHP’s grants program aimed at driving the development of the Australian blue carbon market.

Launched in June 2022, BHP’s grant program aims to provide funding and support to emerging blue carbon projects with the provision of over AUD$5 million over three years. Blue carbon refers to carbon captured by the world’s ocean and coastal ecosystems and projects to conserve and restore these ecosystems are increasingly being recognized for the important role they play in mitigating climate change.

The grant recipients are:

  • Deakin University Blue Carbon Lab – Restoring coastal wetlands through low-cost strategies and supporting the uptake of blue carbon restoration projects through tidal reinstatement along Victoria’s coastline.
  • Tidal Moon – One of the world’s largest seagrass restoration projects targeting a portion of the estimated 100,000 hectares of damaged sea grass meadows in Shark Bay, Western Australia.
  • James Cook University – The first meadow scale seagrass restoration project in tropical Australia in the Wet Tropics region of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Learn more about the grant recipients and their projects below.

The program was developed with the support of Pollination, a leading climate change investment and advisory firm. It comprises the Blue Carbon Breakthrough Grant Program, which supports more advanced projects ready for execution in FY2024, and the Blue Carbon Enabler Program, which supports earlier stage projects where the outcomes are expected to be realized over a longer time period.

BHP’s Group Climate and Sustainability Officer Fiona Wild said: “We are excited to support the development of the emerging blue carbon market in a way that delivers climate, nature and community benefits.

“The large number of applicants for our program makes it clear that there is significant interest in taking action for our environment and for our communities, and BHP is very pleased to be working with the successful recipients.”

Pollination Chief Executive Officer Martijn Wilder added: “There is enormous potential for blue carbon projects to help support Australia’s net zero and nature positive transition, and we are pleased to have worked with BHP as it supports the development of the blue carbon market in Australia.

“With these grants from BHP, these projects will be able to demonstrate how blue carbon activities can be deployed on the ground, with the potential to be replicated and scaled across the country in future. As a company that works bringing great ideas together with financing and the expertise to make them reality – we have been thrilled to be part of this process.”


Recipients of the Blue Carbon Breakthrough Grant

Deakin University Blue Carbon Lab: Restoring coastal wetlands through low-cost strategies – a demonstration of exclusion fencing

Led by Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab in partnership with Greening Australia, this project will demonstrate the potential of fencing (to exclude non-native animals) as a scalable, replicable and low-cost strategy to restore blue carbon ecosystems. It aims to restore over 200 ha of marginal farmland as tidal marsh and supratidal swamp forest in south-eastern Australia, bringing quantifiable and substantial blue carbon and other co-benefits (biodiversity, coastal protection, fisheries improvement, cultural). This will generate important new knowledge to help operationalize marketable blue carbon projects in Australia that are beneficial to both the natural environment and society.

“Currently, there is only one available blue carbon method under Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund, which is the reintroduction of tidal flow,” said Dr Melissa Wartman, Environmental Research Scientist and Research Fellow at Deakin University's Blue Carbon Lab.

“However, excluding non-native hard-hoofed animals such as livestock, feral pigs and buffalo from coastal wetlands is another promising opportunity to restore blue carbon ecosystems. Through this demonstration project, we are excited to be collecting critical data to support the development of a new “exclusion” blue carbon method,” she added.

Tidal Moon

Tidal Moon is an Indigenous owned and led marine service business. Its project aims to restore 100ha of damaged sea grass meadows within Shark Bay, Western Australia. It is to be delivered using the Indigenous skills, knowledge and diving operations of Tidal Moon in conjunction with technical expert teams specializing in Shark Bay seagrass restoration and evaluation of blue carbon sequestration and avoided emissions potential.

“We would like to thank BHP and its Climate Resilience team for awarding this Breakthrough Project grant to an Indigenous company and its recognition that we are Malgana people of Shark Bay. This is a chance to advance our community, our people, and use our knowledge and love of country to heal the environment. It provides purpose for the next generation and the opportunity to pass on knowledge from our elders,” said Michael Wear, Founder of Tidal Moon.

Recipients of the Blue Carbon Enabler Grant

James Cook University

As the first meadow scale seagrass restoration in Tropical Australia, this project will restore two key seagrass areas in the Wet Tropics region of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area that were lost as a result of La Nina climate conditions leading up to 2011. This will establish a range of regionally appropriate seagrass restoration techniques and assess the impacts to seagrass Blue Carbon and the return of fisheries functions in the restored seagrass.

Associate Professor Michael Rasheed of James Cook University’s TropWATER Centre, who is the project leader, said the project builds on three years of local trials that have developed effective restoration techniques ready to be rolled out on a large scale.

“We are really excited to partner with four Traditional Owner groups on whose sea country the work will take place as well as recreational fishing volunteers and world leading science teams from three universities, conservation NGOs and industry to deliver this project,” he shared.

“Results of the project will provide critical information toward developing a seagrass restoration methodology for Blue Carbon application in future seagrass restoration programs throughout tropical Australia and importantly leave a legacy of empowered Traditional Owners and Community for long-term stewardship of the restored seagrass areas.”  

Deakin University Blue Carbon Lab: Enabling blue carbon restoration at scale

Despite the recent release of the first blue carbon method under the Emissions Reduction Fund, there are still several challenges delaying its uptake by landholders around Australia.

In Victoria, previous work developed by Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab has identified major gaps on the location of tidal barriers along the coastline.

This project aims to support the uptake of blue carbon restoration projects through tidal reinstatement along Victoria’s coastline by developing a portfolio of potential sites for restoration projects. Developing pre-feasibility assessments of potential pilot restoration sites will drive an understanding of the feasibility of blue carbon restoration in Victoria and support the development of a functioning blue carbon market.

“Restoring blue carbon ecosystems is key to maintaining the ecosystem services provided by these ecosystems to coastal communities. Our previous studies in the region indicated that tidal reinstatement could be a feasible management action to restore coastal wetlands in Victoria. However, we still lack the implementation of projects in the region,” noted Dr Micheli Costa, Research Fellow at Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab. “This new project will allow us to identify potential sites and understand landholder’s amenability to develop blue carbon restoration projects within their lands.