Can we save trees by putting a price on them?

by Thomson Reuters Foundation | Thomson Reuters Foundation

Economists have argued for decades that putting a price on nature is one of the best ways to save it. The idea, called natural capital, is gaining momentum: the United Nations last year adopted an international standard for assessing the value of different ecosystems.

So how do you put a price on nature, and how does that value translate into actual cash?

To find out, we traveled to Gabon, a small country in West African with some of the world’s densest rainforests. Researchers there are measuring how much carbon their forests are removing from the atmosphere so the government can try to collect on that service. But it also argues that there’s a sustainable way to harvest some trees, creating jobs and bringing in much-needed extra income.

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