Cousin Island has been announced by Nature Seychelles as the world’s first carbon neutral nature reserve. This comes as a result of an intensive carbon footprint assessment, assurance process and investment in high quality carbon credits to offset the footprint. Coupled with the fact that the island is significant for sea birds and endemic land birds, it is also the most important breeding site for Hawksbill turtles in the Western Indian Ocean – making it a shining example of conservation and sustainable tourism.
About Cousin Island
Cousin Island spans 27 hectares and lies approximately 2km from Praslin island in the Seychelles. It became the worlds’ first internationally owned-reserve when it was purchased in 1968 by the International Council for the Protection of Birds (ICBP), which is now Birdlife International.
The Special Nature Reserve at Cousin Island is managed by Nature Seychelles – a multiple award-winning NGO in the Seychelles that is involved in a wide range of activities to improve environmental standards. Conservation activities in the reserve include monitoring of the island’s biodiversity, research, re-introduction of endangered species such as the Seychelles Magpie Robin, ecotourism and education.
The decision to go carbon neutral
Thousands of eco-tourists visit the Special Reserve at Cousin Island annually. Nature Seychelles decided to make the reserve carbon neutral in recognition of the environmental impacts of tourism (most visitors to Cousin Island fly from Europe and reach the island by boat) and after media reports in Europe urging citizens to be more eco-friendly and not to travel to long-haul destinations like Seychelles.
“We initiated a process that involved measuring all the emissions associated with the island, reviewing opportunities for on-going reductions and investing in carbon credits from a clean cook stove project in Sudan” said Kerstin Henri, Nature Seychelles’ Director for Strategic Operations.
How was the carbon footprint calculated?
Carbon management company, Carbon Clear, measured the reserve’s carbon footprint by looking at various activities associated with visitors’ on and off island activities including the operation of the hotel, transport and other relevant impacts of visitors. The results of the carbon footprint assessment showed that the Island was responsible for over 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2008. The calculations of the footprint, however, also recognized the contribution of the forest restoration programme on the island towards offsetting the carbon footprint.
The majority of the footprint is being offset using carbon credits purchased from a carefully selected and independently verified clean cook stove project in Darfur, Sudan – thus reducing the island’s emissions to net zero. European assurance and audit firm, Nexia, Smith & Williamson, certified that both the measurement and offsetting process had been conducted to the highest standards.