Natural Capital: Save A Forest, Fight Climate Change, Get Paid

"Canadians are coming to understand that the national environmental agenda can no longer be separated from the national economic agenda. Sustainable development, therefore, demands that we integrate social, economic and environmental considerations into decision-making in a way that enhances productivity and prosperity without compromising the integrity of the environment." - Natural Resources Canada

Intact, pristine, natural systems contribute over $33 trillion dollars of 'value' to our economy every year, as calculated in 1997. Traditional economics does not take these contributions into account, even though all life (and the economy) depends on them. The current biodiversity crisis, rapid deforestation, and global climate change is beginning to change that.

'Natural capital' is increasingly being acknowledged and  taken into account, and conservation, restoration, and sustainability are concepts that we are likely to hear a lot more about in the near future. This bodes well for all our forest lands including the precious, and dwindling, old growth.

Forests are one of the Earth's great atmospheric regulators, and they store more carbon than any other biome on the planet. In most cases our forests, especially pristine, untouched areas, are more valuable standing than cut for lumber or other uses.

Forest carbon projects recognize the value of the carbon-storage capacity of forests, and pay out credits to keep trees growing and sequestering to help mitigate industrial greenhouse gases.

The largest  to date in North America, and the first deal of its kind in Canada, was launched recently in Vancouver, BC. The Nature Conservancy Of Canada (NCC) signed a deal that saw them receive carbon credits worth $4 million dollars that mitigates 700,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

A forest is worth far more standing than it is when cut down to make stuff
The NCC is receiving the cash for its 55,000-hectare piece of land known as Darkwoods. The area, which has extensive virgin forest including trees over 500 years old, is on Kootenay Lake near Nelson, BC. The deal represents the beginning of a process that promises great benefits for the environment, biodiversity, trees, and forests.

The concept of natural capital is just beginning to take off, and there will be bumps in the road as it progresses. One complaint is that it is difficult to measure the value of nature's systems without some agreement on methods of valuating and auditing at least the global forms of natural capital (e.g. value of air, water, soil). We have not yet arrived at such agreement.

But we are moving in the right direction as we change how we think about, and value, nature. It may very well save what is left of our once vast forests, and reclaim and restore degraded forest lands so they may thrive again.

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