Is Nature a Good Investment?

  • Investing in nature means funding projects that cultivate and regenerate healthy ecosystems.
  • Massive amounts of investment is needed to reach our global targets and keep global warming under 1.5℃.
  • Tree-planting projects funded through carbon offsets are a vital part of keeping our climate stable.
The biosphere is the thin layer where life exists on Earth.

Nature not only underpins our entire economy, it’s the foundation of our civilization.

It may be counterintuitive, but we’re living in an era scientists call the Holocene, a time characterized by one of the most stable climates in Earth’s history (wait, really?). This stability allows life on Earth to flourish, and the flourishing biosphere in turn helps keep the climate stable. It’s a virtuous cycle. Here’s a simplified math equation to help it make sense:

Stable climate = More plants = Well regulated water & carbon cycles = Stable climate.

Voilà. Math.

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This stable environment also allowed our ancestors to build the civilizations we live in today. But now carbon-based industrialization has expanded to the point that we’re throwing that equilibrium off balance and risking the collapse of civilization as we know it. That’s why a vital part of the solution to global warming is regenerating healthy ecosystems to preserve that wonderful atmospheric equilibrium.

But how do we restore healthy ecosystems? Well, it takes quite a bit of money actually (how much? We’ll get to that in a moment) which means we need to start investing back into nature. A lot.

But what does it mean to invest in nature?

Investing in nature means funding nature-based solutions to climate change, such as replanting forests, restoring wetlands, converting degraded farmland back into healthy ecosystems, and so much more. It’s estimated that these solutions have the potential to absorb up to one third of the CO₂ we need removed from our atmosphere by 2030, while also being one of the most cost-effective solutions available.

Cool! Let’s talk numbers:

According to the World Economic Forum, $44 trillion of global GDP relies on nature, and right now, about $133 billion is invested back into nature annually. Woohoo, sounds like a LOT!

But it’s not.

We need to invest $8.1 trillion in nature by 2050.

In fact, to achieve our biodiversity, land degradation, and CO₂ absorption targets, we should triple that annual investment by 2030 and quadruple it by 2050. It’s estimated that we need about $8.1 trillion worth of investments in nature by 2050.

Now $133 billion seems a bit weak, right?

And here’s another kicker: so far, that $133 billion is 86% public money. The private sector (that means you, me, and Amazon) only accounts for 14% of it! There’s so much potential in the private sector that just hasn’t come through yet.

So, how exactly do we invest in nature, and why aren’t more people doing it?

Carbon offsetting, especially through tree-planting projects, is a major part of the solution. It’s direct investment in nature by regenerating healthy forests and ecosystems.

Still, many companies are hesitant to offset their emissions, and there are some understandable reasons for that. Offsetting is still a maturing market, and up until recently tree-planting projects had kind of a bad rap. It was hard to find legitimate tree-planting offsets that had metrics proving they delivered what they promised.

But, today people are more savvy. They’re demanding transparency, accountability, and science-based, verifiable results from carbon offset companies, which has drastically improved standards. Now that carbon offsets have gotten more efficient and reliable, the industry is ready to scale up massively.

But in our rush to undo our degradation of nature, we always have to be mindful that projects benefit indigenous and local communities. Nature restoration projects, if done right, can do so much more than just sequester CO₂. They cultivate vibrant ecosystems that promote biodiversity, eco-tourism, filter out water and air pollution, and provide economic value for the local communities (among other things).

From the beginning, The Carbon Offset Company has been dedicated to funding high-quality offsetting projects that benefit and sustain local communities. Check our projects page to see the high standards we adhere to, to make sure every dollar has an impact.

What is the government’s role in all this?

We can’t solely rely on businesses and individuals voluntarily investing in nature. We’re at a moment when we’re building back our economy from the pandemic and governments are in a position to take drastic actions that can change the trajectory of human history. COP26 was a let down, but we can pressure our governments (national, regional, and city) to make the necessary changes while we wait for an effective international treaty. Governments can invest heavily in nature through a Green New Deal, Civilian Climate Corps, and altering agricultural subsidies to promote sustainable farming practices (and let’s just throw in ending fossil fuel subsidies while we’re at it).

Governments can also spur the private sector to pick up the slack. Our current system of capitalism is not set up to funnel vast amounts of money into nature. Offsetting companies don’t exist because they make huge profits, they exist because the people behind them are passionate about mitigating climate change. But governments can create incentives and regulations to nudge the private sector to invest that $8.1 trillion into nature-based solutions.

As a final note, nature-based solutions are vitally important, but we need to remain mindful that it’s only part of the solution. Ultimately, decarbonizing our economy is our only path to survival. We need to stop producing greenhouse gases as soon as possible and transition to a clean economy. Then, as the ecosystems we’re planting today mature, they’ll draw out the CO₂ in our atmosphere and (hopefully) restabilize our climate. Then we can just kick back and enjoy the Holocene.

If you want to invest in nature through carbon offsets, purchasing your offsets through The Carbon Offset Company funds projects around the world that cultivate healthy ecosystems where native species and local communities can thrive. Our projects range from restoring American wildlands devastated by global warming induced fires to helping Haitians rebuild their lost forests. Join us in investing in nature and our future.

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