If you are an environmentalist it is a scary thing to call anything natural an asset. This is because assets create wealth given the right investment, and, historically at least, investment meant exploitation.
In one way or another environmental assets are converted in order to realise their value.
- Trees become railway sleepers, pit props, roof trusses, furniture and firewood.
- Flower filled meadows become livestock factories.
- Ore bodies and coal seams become giant holes in the ground upstream of depleted and polluted waterways.
The environmentalist paradigm has been about saving the last remaining patches of unspoilt nature from this type of asset (resource) exploitation.
Preservation and conservation of nature has required extraordinary commitment, tenacity and sacrifice. Either from those who pushed for and created the legislation for environmental protection that helped knock back pollution and create national parks or from the more radical individuals who had to hug trees.
The arrival of global warming as the next serious threat to the environment has proven more difficult to fight. The only acceptable solution has been to try and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and this should have created another route for environmentalism, a partnership with the investment community to trade carbon.
An unlikely alliance parodied in green has moved on
Only she hasn’t.
So far the financiers have not joined in the unholy alliance. Perhaps they have been distracted by more immediate economic woes or simply got cold feet.
Market mechanisms for trading carbon are in place, accounting rules have been tested and projects in forestry, agriculture and energy are ready. Environmentalists have relented but still nothing.
Are we losing faith in markets just when we thought they might help solve environmental problems?
That would be quite an irony.