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January 19, 2024

Editor’s note: a Bretton Woods for nature

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Geologist and academic Martin Stuchtey’s inspiring proposal is to put nature on the balance sheet, and account for the $140tn a year he estimates it generates for the global economy (Photo: Evgeny Ivanov/Dreamstime)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

While the team in London and Brussels put together our weekly round-up of ESG policy news, I got to write this final Davos missive after a lovely meal in Serneus, a half-hour ride from the hustle and bustle of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting and late-night receptions. My dinner companions and I thought it was the perfect end to a busy week.

It has been an exciting week too, with fascinating discussions on many subjects. Some of the most interesting conversations I joined and listened to these past few days centred around nature. 

One idea I found particularly inspiring came from Martin Stuchtey, a geologist, academic and former McKinsey partner, who, during a panel discussion on Thursday, spelled out his plan to put nature on the balance sheet – and account for the $140tn a year he estimates nature generates for the global economy.

To do so, Stuchtey explained, three questions need to be answered. The first is whether there can be a trusted currency for nature. He told his audience, during the Doconomy Stage of Impact, that this can be achieved by assigning any and every pixel of the planet a “biological passport”, which would hold a certain value.

Then, comes the transactional issue: on what basis would that value be exchanged? The solution could be a “nature service agreement”, under which, say, countries with an abundance of natural resources would be paid to maintain them.

The last component of this logical architecture for “nature equity” – a new asset class for regenerating the planet – would be the creation of a legal status for such agreements that would allow for their inclusion in the balance sheet.

Technologically, Stuchtey said, the accessible and scalable implementation of this structure is possible. He added that such a system could become a “new Bretton Woods that considers nature”.

It is an inspiring proposition, which the organisation Stuchtey founded in 2022, The Landbanking Group, is intent on promoting. 

It is also a fascinating subject to reflect on in my last newsletter. 

From Monday, I will be taking on a new role within the Financial Times Group, and Sustainable Views will have a new editor, who will be announced soon.

Luckily, I will not move too far from our talented team of journalists and colleagues across the FT, who have worked so tirelessly over the past two and a half years to help me create this new venture. 

Part of my next job, indeed, will require working together – just not on a daily basis. I will miss our ever lively editorial meetings. And I will also miss penning these missives to you, our readers.

I hope that, somehow, we will stay close too.


Silvia Pavoni is the editor of Sustainable Views 


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