The report related the incredible triumph of Cousin island, which was turned from a loss making coconut plantation to one ofthe world's conservation successes. Conservation on the island has brought important bird species such as the Seychelles Warbler back from the brink of extinction and provided a habitat for many other endemic species.
This has made Cousin a popular ecotourism destination, attracting about 11,000 eco-visitors every year. Like most visitors
Visitors on boat transfer to Cousin
However, such travel is increasingly raising unease. Travel experts are concerned that the extensive journeys often required to reach untouched natural wonders such as those found in the Seychelles produces climate-destroying greenhouses gases and causes other environmental damage .
A further danger to poor countries is the call by many first world politicians, analysts and academics that the tourist industry should give priority to developing ecotourism in markets closer to home. In Germany for example a newspaper campaign some time ago was entitled “Sylt not Seychelles”. Several leading voices in Europe insist it would be simplest to just eliminate exotic trips.
Such emphasis on less air travel might result in a voluntary roll back on long distance trips by tourists.
This would in turn have far reaching consequences for far flung destinations such as Seychelles, whose economy is largely dependent on tourism.
To counter such a serious turn of events, visitors need to be reassured that carbon emissions related to their travel are being offset. This is what Nature Seychelles and its partners is seeking to do for Cousin Island.
"We want our eco-visitors to not only enjoy the incredible nature that's been restored, but to also come here conscience free". Nirmal Shah, the CEO, says. "Therefore, we want to put in place a carbon offset program that will maintain Cousin’s worldwide reputation as a world class reserve, protect the environment, and reassure visitors that their travel to the Reserve would be carbon neutral". He adds.
A carbon footprint is described as the total set of greenhouse gas emissions an individual, organization, event or product gives off. It is measured by undertaking an emissions assessment. Once the size of a carbon footprint is known, a plan can be devised to reduce or offset it.
This is done by investing in projects that are accepted as able to reduce carbon emissions such as planting trees.
"We plan to invest in a third party validated offset project". Says Kerstin Henri, Projects Coordinator for Nature Seychelles. "But first, an expert carbon footprinting consultant will be chosen, with the help of our partners already working on such projects abroad, to provide robust, science based figures for Cousin, and a due diligence proposal. They will also assist in selecting a suitable project". She concludes.
Nature Seychelles has conducted a thorough footprint of Cousin Island Special Reserve which goes well beyond the activities of the island, taking into account visitor travel both to the island and to the Seychelles. During the footprinting process, it was found that the net emissions reductions from the island exceed the operational emissions.
However, taking into account visitor travel, Nature Seychelles is in the process of offseting the remainder by investing in an accredited climate change mitigation project in Africa. Once achieved, Cousin island will be deemed carbon neutral and will be given a certificate by Carbon Clear. This will be assured by a third party auditor, themselves accredited in this field.