Ol’au Belau and carbon calculator are two different programs that work together to push people toward positive behavior by rewarding their good behavior, explained Jennifer Koskelin-Gibbons who worked previously with the Ministry of Tourism and private partners to develop these two programs.
The carbon calculator was spearheaded by former Director of Bureau of Tourism Kevin Mesebeluu to give visitors to Palau an opportunity to turn their good choices into individual contributions to climate change solutions through carbon credits.
“The grant to fund the development of carbon calculator was from Taiwan’s ICDF to Bureau of Tourism,” revealed Mrs. Gibbons. “It did not come to us. We did most of the leg work to collect information from local vendors to support the program because it is a great idea, but we didn’t get paid for it,” she added.
Furthermore, Gibbons reported that the grant fund remained at TTM and lapsed in March because the government did not withdraw it.
The carbon calculator app, created by partners of Friends of the PNMS without compensation, calculates every activity a visitor engages in while in Palau and assigns them points. For example, a visitor can enter all the activities he/she did while in Palau into the app, which can download for free. The app calculates how much carbon footprint he or she made and that visitor can choose to pay to offset those carbon credits.
It is not just random action like let’splant a clam and offset carbon. Palau has to have a legitimate project that can be accepted and vetted. For example, Palau has abandoned dumpsites near mangroves. Cleaning those up and replanting mangroves, these can be registered and vetted as legitimate carbon sequestration.
“To validate an actual blue carbon project, it has to meet the international standards, to be an intervention at the UN level,” added former Director of Tourism Mesebeluu. This standard, said Gibbons, is called UN Red Plus.
“This is not a marketing gimmick but an actual product we can have,” added Mesebeluu.
“Now about the money, it’s a choice people can make to pay to offset their carbon. The money should come to the Palau government because they are the ones to purchase carbon credits. But this has not been possible because the MOU with the government is held up. It goes to a third-party organization that holds the funds to be transferred to the government. We have been working with the Minister of Finance to sign an MOU so that the government can provide its account to that organization for that money to come to the Palau government. It’s been months, and we haven’t got the signed MOU, Adora Nobuo said, explaining that we are not getting any money from this project.
The Ol’au Palau is another app still being developed but with the same concept, except it rewards visitors that make good choices. For example, if a visitor goes to businesses n certified as smart businesses, i.e. use less plastic, segregate waste, provide authentic local experience, and use less energy in their operations, visitors get points. If they accumulate a certain amount of points, they can win a chance to experience a quality visitor experience at one of the certified and participating authentic local tourism experiences. Visitors pay the full operator price for the service but the operator must ensure the highest quality and authentic experience expected by the customer.
It is, expressed former Director of Bureau of Tourism Kevin Mesebeluu, a way of encouraging good behavior from our visitors using a reward system.
The former Ministry of Tourism initiated the two programs, but due to a lack of staffing and resources, they partnered with NGOs such as Friends of the PNMS to complete the projects.
“Throughout the entire process, we have updated the government agencies
, through emails and outreach to the government.”