The natural ecosystems that provide our sustenance must be kept clean and healthy. Where they have been degraded they need to be restored so that they can sustain us like they once did.
Reinvesting in nature’s communities
Restoring ecosystems involves reinvesting in the natural capital of the earth’s ecosystem. The natural ecosystems that provide our sustenance must be kept clean and healthy. A healthy and diverse ecosystem is obviously much more valuable than a sick one.
Ways of investing in natural capital include:
- Nature conservation projects – wildlife refuges and national parks
- Habitat restoration projects
- Elimination of noxious and exotic plants and animals
There are many ways of restoring the environment. For example one way is through the mitigation of greenhouse gases as described below.
Mitigation of greenhouse gas emmissions is usually called offsetting and has the effect of neutralising all remaining climate and environmental impacts of the emmissions.
Offsetting can be achieved in a number of ways. Examples of types of offset projects are:
- Carbon capture (sinks) and storage (reservoirs) – e.g. tree planting
- Avoided deforestation – e.g. providing efficient log burners in underdeveloped countries
- Renewable energy – e.g. wind and hydro-generation, biofuels etc
- Energy efficiency and conservation – e.g. buying an efficient heating system for a local school
- Methane collection and combustion
Offsets may be a cheaper or more convenient alternative to reducing one’s emissions. However, some critics object to carbon offsets believing that people will take the easy route and simply pay for existing emissions without first taking the steps of conserving, efficiency and using clean alternatives. Critics have also questioned the benefits of certain types of offsets, such as tree planting.
Offset projects cost money so individuals and organisations must purchase ‘offset credits’, often known as ‘carbon credits’, to the amount of CO2 that they emit. This means that CO2 has a value and in effect is a commodity that can be traded.