Australia Wants to Turn Wilderness Restoration Into an Investable Market
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Australia Wants to Turn Wilderness Restoration Into an Investable Market

Some are questioning whether there will be demand for so-called biodiversity credits

By ALICE URIBE
Tue, Apr 11, 2023 8:26amGrey Clock 4 min

SYDNEY—Northern Australia’s tropical coast used to have a vast covering of lush rainforest that supported the cassowary, often called the world’s most dangerous bird. Now, one organization is developing a program they say will encourage landowners to reforest the area and create a habitat for native species.

Their plan: Cassowary Credits.

“The idea of the Cassowary Credit was about bringing in the large-scale investment that’s needed to really do that work to protect the valleys of the region from climate change,” said Sarah Hoyal, biodiversity and climate leader at nonprofit environmental group Terrain Natural Resource Management, which wants to sell credits to investors that are valued by how much land is restored to its native state over time.

Australia’s government has similar plans, albeit on a larger scale. On March 29, the government introduced legislation to create a nationwide market for so-called biodiversity credits, the first large advanced economy to undertake such an effort.

Australia is betting that businesses will be hungry to buy credits as they face pressure from shareholders and customers to be more socially responsible. If the market flourishes, Australia could be a model for harnessing money from the private sector to reverse environmental losses, but the plan is facing skepticism from investors and industry groups questioning how the credits will be valued and what will drive demand for them.

“Until there is an economic return, you will not get investors coming to nature projects except on a philanthropic basis, or some early stage voluntary action,” said Martijn Wilder, chief executive of Pollination, an advisory and investment company. The legislation is a good start, he said, but more needs to be done to show it can work.

Australia’s government argues that the plan offers a way for companies to invest in managing the environment without having to buy land. The market will also give landowners extra income, overcoming one of the roadblocks to conservation, and create jobs for indigenous communities that become involved in restoring the land, said Tanya Plibersek, the country’s environment minister.

Under Australia’s scheme, landowners would get a credit, in the form of a certificate, for conducting repair or preservation projects on their property. This credit can be sold on to businesses and individuals. To help these investors figure out how much each credit is worth, information such as how much land is being repaired or how long it will take will be disclosed. The credits would be tracked via a public register and overseen by a regulator.

How Australia tackles these issues could offer lessons for other countries considering ways to prevent nature loss. The U.N.’s environmental arm estimates that $384 billion annually—more than double current levels—needs to be invested by 2025 to protect against climate, biodiversity and land degradation.

Australia’s plan illustrates how some governments don’t think they can fill the funding gap alone and want the private sector to step up. Conservation efforts have largely focused on national parks or wildlife refuges. But with more than 60% of land in Australia owned privately, officials say that is no longer enough.

“We live in the extinction capital of the world—losing more mammals to extinction than any other continent,” said Ms. Plibersek.

The concept of using credits to achieve an environmental goal isn’t new. The European Union and several U.S. states allow trading in carbon credits as part of programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A challenge for Australia’s scheme, however, is figuring out how to value nature itself.

“Biodiversity is inherently more complex than carbon and thus less divisible into interchangeable units,” said Dr. Jody Gunn, chief executive of the Australian Land Conservation Alliance, which represents organisations working to protect nature. “How many koalas is worth a hectare of protected rainforest?”

Some businesses will buy from the market voluntarily when it opens, but it remains to be seen that there will be enough to sustain the market in the short term, she said. That means the government would need to step in and become an active investor, Dr. Gunn said.

Ms. Plibersek said the government hasn’t decided whether to invest in nature projects, but the legislation allows it to do so.

As lawmakers figure out the mechanics of the market, some organisations are plowing ahead with separate plans to develop credits.

Wilderlands, an Australian company, sells credits for several projects, including the rehabilitation of privately owned land in South Australia state that was once used to graze cattle. The purpose of the project is to allow native animals and plants to thrive on the land, and not to use it for agriculture, said Wilderlands, which runs a marketplace for the credits. Buyers of its credits include Lendlease Group, a $3.38 billion Australian construction company, and Monash University, which wanted to showcase efforts to protect nature to its students.

In the northern tropics, much of the coastal lowland habitat of the cassowary has been cleared for farms and the growth of towns. The area is also threatened by cyclones, diseases such as avian tuberculosis and wild dogs. These threats have increasingly driven the bird, which can grow to two meters tall, to higher ground. The cassowary is listed by the government as endangered,

Restoring its lowland habitat will be a slow process. The value of Terrain’s proposed credit is tied to how the rainforest recovers at various points over 25 years. Terrain is developing its credits separately from the government’s effort to establish a national market and is awaiting further details before deciding if its own credits can be part of it.

“It will be 500 years before it’ll look like the rainforest that’s there now,” said Terrain’s Ms. Hoyal. “But it’ll be a substantial habitat at 25 years.”



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New York Watch Auctions Record Uptick in Sales in the Face of Market Slowdown
By LAURIE KAHLE
Mon, Jun 24, 2024 4 min

Luxury watch collectors showed ongoing strong demand for Patek Philippe, growing interest in modern watches and a preference for larger case sizes and leather straps at the June watch sales in New York, according to an analysis of the major auctions.

Independent and neo-vintage categories, meanwhile, experienced declines in total sales and average prices, said the report from  EveryWatch, a global online platform for watch information. Overall, the New York auctions achieved total sales of US$52.27 million, a 9.87% increase from the previous year, on the sale of 470 lots, reflecting a 37% increase in volume. Unsold rates ticked down a few points to 5.31%, according to the platform’s analysis.

EveryWatch gathered data from official auction results for sales held in New York from June 5 to 10 at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s. Limited to watch sales exclusively, each auction’s data was reviewed and compiled for several categories, including total lots, sales and sold rates, highest prices achieved, performance against estimates, sales trends in case materials and sizes as well as dial colors, and more. The resulting analysis provides a detailed overview of market trends and performance.

The Charles Frodsham Pocket watch sold at Phillips for $433,400.

“We still see a strong thirst for rare, interesting, and exceptional watches, modern and vintage alike, despite a little slow down in the market overall,” says Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of the California-based pre-owned online watch dealer BobsWatches.com, in an email. “The results show that there is still a lot of money floating around out there in the economy looking for quality assets.”

Patek Philippe came out on top with more than US$17.68 million on the sale of 122 lots. It also claimed the top lot: Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Philippe GrandMaster Chime 6300G-010, still in the sealed factory packaging, which sold at Sotheby’s for US$5.4 million, much to the dismay of the brand’s president, Thierry Stern . The London-based industry news website WatchPro estimates the flip made the actor as much as US$2 million in just a few years.

At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire
Richard Mille

“As we have seen before and again in the recent Sotheby’s sale, provenance can really drive prices higher than market value with regards to the Sylvester Stallone Panerai watches and his standard Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1a offered,” Altieri says.

Patek Philippe claimed half of the top 10 lots, while Rolex and Richard Mille claimed two each, and Philippe Dufour claimed the No. 3 slot with a 1999 Duality, which sold at Phillips for about US$2.1 million.

“In-line with EveryWatch’s observation of the market’s strong preference for strap watches, the top lot of our auction was a Philippe Dufour Duality,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’ deputy chairman and head of watches, Americas, in an email. “The only known example with two dials and hand sets, and presented on a leather strap, it achieved a result of over US$2 million—well above its high estimate of US$1.6 million.”

In all, four watches surpassed the US$1 million mark, down from seven in 2023. At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire, the most expensive watch sold at Christie’s in New York. That sale also saw a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM52-01 CA-FQ Tourbillon Skull Model go for US$1.26 million to an online buyer.

Rolex expert Altieri was surprised one of the brand’s timepieces did not crack the US$1 million threshold but notes that a rare Rolex Daytona 6239 in yellow gold with a “Paul Newman John Player Special” dial came close at US$952,500 in the Phillips sale.

The Crown did rank second in terms of brand clout, achieving sales of US$8.95 million with 110 lots. However, both Patek Philippe and Rolex experienced a sales decline by 8.55% and 2.46%, respectively. The independent brand Richard Mille, with US$6.71 million in sales, marked a 912% increase from the previous year with 15 lots, up from 5 lots in 2023.

The results underscored recent reports of prices falling on the secondary market for specific coveted models from Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. The summary points out that five top models produced high sales but with a fall in average prices.

The Rolex Daytona topped the list with 42 appearances, averaging US$132,053, a 41% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, with two of the top five watches, made 26 appearances with an average price of US$111,198, a 26% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar followed with 23 appearances and a US$231,877 average price, signifying a fall of 43%, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak had 22 appearances and an average price of US$105,673, a 10% decrease. The Rolex Day Date is the only watch in the top five that tracks an increase in average price, which at US$72,459 clocked a 92% increase over last year.

In terms of categories, modern watches (2005 and newer) led the market with US$30 million in total sales from 226 lots, representing a 53.54% increase in sales and a 3.78% increase in average sales price over 2023. Vintage watches (pre-1985) logged a modest 6.22% increase in total sales and an 89.89% increase in total lots to 169.

However, the average price was down across vintage, independent, and neo-vintage (1990-2005) watches. Independent brands saw sales fall 24.10% to US$8.47 million and average prices falling 42.17%, while neo-vintage watches experienced the largest decline in sales and lots, with total sales falling 44.7% to US$8.25 million, and average sales price falling 35.73% to US$111,000.

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