Indigenous land owners in the North Kimberley are reducing carbon emissions through traditional fire management techniques in a landmark project backed by Qantas.
Under the North Kimberley Fire Abatement project, four Indigenous groups conduct early season dry burns to prevent uncontrolled wildfires, improve the health of country, avoid the release of greenhouse gas emissions, and generate certified carbon credits for sale.
North Kimberley Traditional Owner groups – Dambimangari, Wilinggin, Wunambal Gaambera and Balanggarra - sold 226,000 carbon credits to Qantas through the compliance market under the previous carbon tax.
The airline has agreed to continue to support the project under the voluntary market and has committed to a long-term partnership approving a Memorandum of Understanding with the four North Kimberley groups and the Kimberley Land Council.
The credits Qantas buys from the Kimberley project will be used for its voluntary Fly Carbon Neutral program, which allows passengers to pay a small amount to offset some of the emissions generated by their flight.
The sale of carbon credits will provide the North Kimberley communities with an economic base to protect the region’s biodiversity and reinvigorate Indigenous cultural traditions.
Kimberley Land Council CEO Nolan Hunter said the carbon project showcased how Aboriginal people were using their cultural values to stimulate economic activities in their communities.
“This project highlights how cultural enterprises in remote communities are working to create a range of environmental, social and economic opportunities and outcomes," he said.
"Indigenous management of traditional country produces positive benefits not only at a local and national level but for the International community through mitigating global climate change impacts.’’
Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation Chair Cissy Gore-Birch said the North Kimberley Fire Abatement Project integrated Indigenous knowledge and cultural values with modern science to create economic growth.
“This partnership is empowering our community to develop a sustainable future, built on our traditional knowledge and connection to country. It has created jobs and is driving positive social change in our communities,’’ she said.
“Fire poses a significant threat to the high biodiversity values of the Kimberley region. Through managing fire across the landscape we are protecting threatened species and rock art sites while working to strengthen culture and ensure our iconic region can be enjoyed by all Australians for generations to come.’’
Qantas’ Head of Environment, John Valastro, said the partnership made perfect sense for the national carrier.
“Our voluntary carbon offset project has been running since 2007, with every cent contributed by passengers going directly to sustainable projects that offset carbon emissions and benefit local communities.
“What makes this project so special is the range of benefits it creates. Fire abatement cuts greenhouse gas emissions and leads to income and job opportunities for local native title groups.
“Qantas is especially proud to be playing a small part in the revival of Aboriginal traditions with a heritage dating back thousands of years, and which are now being combined with modern scientific knowledge.”
Qantas’ Fly Carbon Neutral Project has offset 1.8 million tonnes of carbon since 2007 and is the biggest airline carbon offset program in the world. All contributions by passengers are passed on to certified carbon abatement projects in Australia or overseas. The volume of credits purchased each year is determined by passenger demand.
The North Kimberley Fire Abatement project has generated about 230,000 Kyoto Australia Carbon Credit Units over the past two years.