Q&A Series #27: Interview with Louise-Marlena Tarrier

Carbon Positive Australia - GRT Q&A with Louise-Marlena Tarrier

About the guest

Louise is the CEO of Carbon Positive Australia, a charity that supports individuals, families and organisations to minimize their impact on the environment by planting Australian native trees on degraded land in Australia. Louise is passionate about the environment and connecting individuals to the land on which they live. Carbon Positive offset donors have helped to fund the planting of nearly 6 million trees over the past 20 years. Louise is passionate about the environment and connecting individuals to the land on which they live. She believes that you care about what you love. She wants to encourage everyone to care for country. 

The topic of discussion: Carbon Positive Australia 

Carbon Positive Australia is an Australian charity that has been restoring degraded lands through ecologically sensitive planting for the last 20 years.  They encourage everyone to make climate-healthy choices that go beyond being ‘carbon neutral’.

While reducing our carbon dioxide emissions is essential to limit the impacts of climate change, developing a ‘carbon positive’ approach has wider social, environmental and economic benefits.

Carbon Positive Australia uses the funds raised through donations and carbon offsets to plant native trees on degraded land in Australia. Their reforestation projects sequester carbon whilst helping to restore the landscape and conserve the natural biodiversity.

Their educational tools – such as the new Carbon Footprint Calculator and our Knowledge Centre – help all Australians to understand their impact and act for a healthy climate.

Global Road Technology caught up with Louise-Marlena Tarrier, Managing Director of Carbon Positive Australia, based in Perth, Western Australia.

1. A warm welcome to you Louise. It’s a pleasure to have you as our GRT Q&A series guest. Can you please tell us more about Carbon Positive Australia and what your role as CEO entails? 

We empower all Australians to take practical action on climate change! Our vision is a carbon positive Australia. To that end, we offer donors unique environmental restoration projects that create biodiverse native habitats.

We plant trees to help donors offset their carbon emissions, and we ensure that these planting projects provide benefits beyond carbon sequestration. We engage with and inform the community about climate change, the environment, and how we can all be part of the solution. We provide easy, actionable steps for everyone to reduce their carbon footprint, and we are the only organisation in Australia championing going beyond carbon neutral to become carbon positive (which is essential if we are to keep global warming below 2 degrees).

Our organisational structure encourages creativity and autonomous working. We devolve decision making. Everyone on our small team contributes their skills and passion to our mission. As CEO, an average week might involve speaking about the organisation to landholders, donors, or community groups, visiting carbon planting projects, strategic planning, and a board meeting.

2. Your Footprint. Australia’s Trees. Our Future. Take us through what these 6 words mean to what Carbon Positive Australia has done, is doing and will do in the future.

These six words are very important to us as they are a way of explaining our vision of a carbon positive Australia. We empower everyone to understand their carbon footprint by using our free carbon calculators. We encourage everyone to take action to reduce their emissions and plant trees to offset what they are unable to reduce. We plant in Australia, and the trees we plant are Australian natives. Trees remove carbon from the atmosphere as well as having huge benefits for biodiversity, water cycles, soil health, and human wellbeing. Keeping warming below 1.5 degrees and creating green spaces and canopy cover to mitigate heat is vitally important for all of our futures and those of our children and grandchildren.

3. What’s Your Number? is a question that Carbon Positive Australia is asking before one tries out their Carbon Footprint Calculator. Can you please take us through the details of the Carbon Footprint Calculator. What does the number that you get mean? 

Everything we do has an impact on our carbon emissions. From how we commute to work, to what we buy at the grocery store, our lifestyle choices are contributing to our carbon footprint. Did you know Australians have one of the highest personal carbon footprints in the world? The good news is we can change that. Measuring your household carbon footprint is easy with our Carbon Footprint Calculator. Custom-designed for Australians, it gives you an accurate calculation of the carbon emissions you have generated, so you can really ‘know your number’. Once you have that number, you can take action to reduce your number. You’ll also learn practical everyday ways to reduce and offset the impact of your lifestyle to help combat climate change.

For more than 20 years, Carbon Positive Australia’s native revegetation projects have restored degraded land across Australia and captured carbon. So, when you offset your footprint with us, you are helping to restore Australia’s native landscapes.

We are facing a climate emergency so it’s critical we take steps to tread more lightly and restore our precious planet. It’s time to get to know your number and dial it down with our Carbon Footprint Calculator. It’s free!

4. Carbon neutrality, planting trees, ecological restoration, biodiversity and sustainability. How do these words fit into the Carbon Positive story? 

Carbon neutral is a state that occurs when net greenhouse gas emissions are equal to zero. ‘Carbon positive’ means going beyond this, making additional ‘positive’ contributions to the environment. While many organisations are choosing to reduce their climate impact to zero by becoming carbon neutral, some are choosing to go one step further by becoming carbon positive. When we talk about being carbon positive, we’re not just talking about carbon sequestration. We are promoting an ethos that ensures that the actions we take to sequester carbon also have a beneficial impact on our environment. This means that the tree planting we undertake to remove carbon also has ecological benefits such as improving biodiversity (a key marker for ecosystem health), restoring water cycles, improving soil health, as well as benefits for human beings, such as reducing urban heat island effects, and increasing landscape resilience to climate change. All our planting seeks to restore ecosystem health, and our planting sites have legal permanence in most cases of 100 years – meaning the trees cannot be cut down for at least a century. This is sustainable tree planting, what we call restoration. We encourage everyone to think about sustainability and the impact of our actions on the planet – including when planting trees.

5. As an organization at the forefront of conversations and actions about making the world a better place to live in and creating a sustainable one for the future generations, what are some of the challenges you have experienced? How have you overcome them?

We encounter many challenges. The values that we have for our planting projects are not easy to achieve. We are in the midst of climate change with a drier landscape and increased fire risk. This is already having an impact on planting particularly of native species. We are also seeing growing interest in carbon planting by large emitters as a means of offsetting their carbon, sometimes in preference to making real reductions. This puts pressure on land capacity, and also means that nurseries focus on monoculture production of plants rather than the multi-species needed to achieve ecosystem restoration planting. We overcome these challenges by building partnerships with other environmental organisations and with local landholders, species selection, and research into planting techniques. Together we can have a greater impact. Partnerships are core to our actions having a greater impact.

6. As an individual, how can I become carbon positive? As an organization what 10 actions can we take towards being carbon positive? 

Carbon Positive Australia’s Carbon Footprint Calculator is custom designed for all Australians to understand and take control of their impact on the environment. The process is simple. Begin by calculating your footprint and choosing a time period to calculate for. This could be your lifetime or just the last year. This will give you a baseline measurement of what your carbon footprint is. You can then use our educational tools to think about ways to reduce your footprint. The key is to keep measuring to see how you are reducing year on year. If you want to offset your emissions, then you can plant trees to remove your past carbon emissions.

For organisations it can be a little bit more challenging because they will have some emissions that they have less control over – also known as Scope 3 emissions (essentially those in the value chain) – otherwise, the process is very similar. 10 actions organisations can take towards becoming carbon positive are:=

  1. Playing a role in halting deforestation
  2. Eliminating deforestation in the supply chain
  3. Eliminating fossil fuel use
  4. Choosing a supply chain that is at “least” carbon neutral
  5. Supporting sustainable agriculture
  6. Sourcing all energy needs from renewables
  7. Playing a role in offsetting the carbon emitted through the past burning of fossil fuels
  8. Putting in place strategic and operational policies that support a carbon positive future
  9. Advocating for public policy changes to bring about transformational change
  10. Supporting nature-based solutions to climate change such as reforestation

7. What future do you envisage for a carbon positive Australia and world at large? From now till then, what is the blueprint of getting to that future you envisage?

We want to live in a world where we all play an active role in climate solutions; where we support each other to not just turn around climate change but innovate and create solutions that ensure a healthy future for generations to come. As an organisation we also believe that nature-based solutions, such as tree planting and regenerative and sustainable agricultural practices, are fundamental for a carbon positive future. Our roadmap for this is one of partnership and empowering everyone to take action on their own footprint. We all have the power to influence government and organisations to do the same – as employees, as voters, as consumers, and stakeholders for example in our superannuation funds. We want to inspire Australians to challenge everyone in their networks to reduce their overall carbon impact, and to plant more trees for all our futures. 

Find out more about Carbon Positive Australia: https://carbonpositiveaustralia.org.au/

Keith Nare

Technical Head of Communications for GRT, Keith leads GRT's content strategy across various platforms, whilst coordinating internally to build the voice and opinions of the GRT team. Keith is a product of Nelson Mandela University and his PhD work focuses on Polymer and Physical Chemistry. He was a Research Associate at SANRAL in South Africa and later spent time as a Visiting Research Associate to NTEC at the University of Nottingham in the UK. He is a former Director of Communications for CALROBO in the USA.

Keith is passionate and enthusiastic about health and safety, sustainability, networking and finding synergy through conversations.