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USA - Putting Private Finance to Work for Conservation

Achieving the ambitious goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will require scaling up private sector investments in nature-based infrastructure solutions, such as wetland and forest restoration, say Jeff Eckel, CEO of Hannon Armstrong, and Timothy Male, executive director of the Environmental Policy Innovation Center. They look at projects around the Chesapeake Bay and state legislative efforts.

To avert a climate breakdown, more than 120 countries are working to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That’s matched by pledges from more than 1,000 companies and 450 cities with the same bold commitment. We’ll likely see even more net-zero commitments from U.S. businesses and investors next month at President Biden’s Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day.

Most of the attention on the actions to achieve this net-zero transformation has focused on expanding investment in technologies that reduce emissions from fossil fuels, such as wind, solar, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles.

What’s less widely understood and discussed in the U.S. and around the world is that achieving this ambitious goal will also require scaling up private sector investments in nature-based infrastructure solutions, such as wetland and forest restoration, which help pull carbon emissions out of the atmosphere and embed it in our natural ecosystems.

Private Sector Investment Is Key for Ecological Restoration

Ecological restoration is a huge climate and business opportunity in part because there is so much past damage, which thankfully can be fixed using current technology and methods. We have much work to do, as over half of our original wetlands in the lower 48 states have been drained.

Today, a network of rivers and streams 10 times the total length of the U.S. interstate highway system is significantly degraded by pollution, and the Department of Agriculture has predicted a possible net loss of 37 million acres of forest by 2060.

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