More than three dozen governments around the world have committed to restoring more than 150 million hectares of land by 2020. That’s an area bigger than South Africa. By 2030, that commitment rises to 350 million hectares.
The commitments are long overdue. More than a third of agricultural landscapes are considered degraded. Forests are losing a net 3.3 million hectares (an area the size of Taiwan) every year. Reversing these trends, according to an October report from Nature Conservancy and World Resources Institute, can deliver more than one-third of the emission reductions necessary to keep global warming under two degrees Celsius, the goal of the Paris climate accord (see, “Forests grow as a climate solution.”)
Political urgency on climate action, along with emerging tech and new business models, is unlocking business opportunities in restoring forests and agricultural lands. Hundreds of businesses and investors are jumping on this opportunity, according to a new report from Nature Conservancy and World Resources Institute.
Companies like Dutch firm Land Life Company, whose patented product enables trees to grow in dry and degraded land, are using technology to lower the costs and boost efficiency of restoration.
Consumer-facing firms like Guayakí, in Sebastopol, CA, which sells drinks made with restored Atlantic rainforest-grown yerba mate, are sourcing materials from restorative activities.
Project developers like Chicago-based Fresh Coast Capital, which won Morgan Stanley’s Sustainable Investing Challenge in 2014, are designing and managing restoration projects for clients.
Project managers like New Forests, which manages sustainable timber plantations and other conservation investments, are managing and harvesting trees on degraded land.
Land restoration is already big business. The U.S. restoration economy in 2015, for example, notched $9.5 billion in economic output and generated another $15 billion indirectly. It employed 126,000, 59% more than coal mining.
“At this critical time when stock and bond markets are at rich valuations and investors are looking for the next growth opportunity,” write WRI researchers, “the world’s oldest and most efficient carbon capture technology is waiting: trees.”