The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes (IPCC) latest assessment report, Code Red for Humanity, says it all.  In order to stave off a global mean temperature rise of 1.5 degrees, we need to act decisively and now.  This requires not getting balled up in a debate between renewables vs nature or how pure this company is vs another one.  No longer can humanity wait for government to lead.  Consumers need to exercise their values with each purchase. But to do such, companies need to give consumers options to exercise their values.  

Last week, The Washington Post reported that 1 in 3 Americans have faced some weather disaster this summer.  Scorching heat.  Raging fires.  Hurricane after hurricane producing floods of biblical proportion.  Tornados plaguing places that are unfamiliar with the obliterating destruction they wreak.  Where there is not flooding, drought has turned once productive farmland into dust.  

You might think we have been spared here in the Piedmont, but tropical storm Ida left trees and limbs down all around with flash flooding in Unison. A tornado warning north of Middleburg and an F2 in Annapolis was sobering, to say the least. Has wild weather affected you this summer?  Personally, I had significant tree damage.

If you suffered, even mildly, you’re not alone.  A new poll (Pew Research Center) shows people increasingly see climate change as a threat that now affects them personally.  This poll was taken just before our summer of suffer, so I wonder if a new poll today would show widening concern?  Are these changing attitudes inspiring solutions?  Well, maybe.

The value of renewables is that it lessens emissions moving forward, creating a carbon reduction. Nature, on the other hand, helps to remove carbon from the atmosphere. This is especially true when you plant trees.  Think of tree planting as playing climate offense, while stopping deforestation is playing climate defense. We need to move from an “either or” mindset and develop a “plus one” mindset — Renewables plus Nature with all the co-benefits Nature has to offer. 

It is time to think of Nature as a technology.  To unleash its potential, we need to start placing a value on natural capital.  Natural capital is a term that refers to the air, water, trees, and soil that defines every property.  It offers a natural solution 24/7, whether we ask it to, or not. By managing the assets derived from the land, we create an uplift value that can be priced. 

Twenty years ago, ACRE’s visionaries saw these solutions and began to attach a value to cleaning the air and water utilizing natural capital. By placing a price and value on a tree as a tree, we are now able to ask whether a tree is more valuable left standing?  Or cut down?  The mere fact that we are asking the question is changing how we manage our lands today.   

It’s safe to say carbon credits, nutrient credits and stream restoration credits are the new “currency” of conservation paying you as a landowner to do the right thing.  Conservation is yielding to the age of restoration, moving away from the passive activities of conserving towards active restoration of the services that Nature provides humanity.  

Think of the many large corporations that are hungry to offset the carbon footprint they cannot reverse.  Multiply that by the number of small/medium sized businesses that also want to become carbon neutral.  Their customers demand it, and businesses want to deliver.  Their need for credits makes the needs of large corporate community look quite small.  Larger still is the community of individuals who want to offset their personal carbon footprint.  Unless the supply of credits is grown now, demand will drive the value of the “currency” far higher.  

We sell credits to large corporations, even small businesses, but how do we connect the natural world with a transactional one where we empower the consumer to affect the change they want to see in the world?  One such example occurred between our GreenTrees and Shell Energy. Shell purchased credits from GreenTrees and then “inset” or “decarbonized” the emissions profile of all the gasoline it sold at pumps in the Netherlands. 

We’re in the world that creates those credits.  In our model, we create the credits (primarily through growing trees,) manage the new forests with our landowning partners and share the credit revenue with the partnering landowners at sale.  Maybe you have land and want to get involved.  In this case, your choice may pay attractive dividends.

Our Co-Founder Carey Crane, Maggie Bryant’s son, says routinely, “If it pays, it stays.”   With each turning of the wheel, trees are being planted, carbon sequestered, water purified, and biodiversity restored. Hooking the transactional marketplace with the biological world, is creating the velocity we need by letting consumers – you and I – tap into the power of the purse. 

Chandler Van Voorhis is a Founder and Managing Partner of ACRE Investment Management in The Plains, VA.  Robert Banner is ACRE’s Special Project Officer. Reach them at chandler@acre-investment.com and rob@acre-investment.com.

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