A new research has determined that investing in restoration and maintenance of the Earth's multi-trillion dollar ecosystems may eventually play the key role in countering climate change and climate-proofing vulnerable economies.
This is among the central findings of a new climate issues update by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), a project launched by Germany and the European Commission in response to a proposal by the G8+5 Environment Ministers (Potsdam, Germany 2007) to develop a global study on the economics of biodiversity loss.
It says the planet's biological diversity and 'ecological infrastructure' are increasingly being put at risk from the impact of climbing greenhouse gases.
Yet natural systems represent one of the biggest untapped allies against the greatest challenge of this generation, according to the research paper, part of a stream of work towards a final study in 2010.
The update underlines that an agreement on funding for forests is a key priority for governments attending the crucial United Nations climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in December.
An estimated 5 gigatonnes or 15 per cent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions - the principal greenhouse gas - are being absorbed or 'sequestrated' by forests every year, making them the "mitigation engine" of the natural world.
This could also be described as 'green carbon'.
Investing in ecosystem-based measures such as financing Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) could thus not only assist in combating climate change but could also be a key anti-poverty and adaptation measure.
Forests also provide services such as freshwaters, soil stabilization, nutrients for agriculture, eco-tourism opportunities and food, fuel and fibre - all of which will be key to buffering vulnerable communities against the climate change already underway.
TEEB is urging governments to factor these wider benefits into a forest carbon finance package in order to maximize the return of an agreement in Copenhagen into the future.
This might pave the way for a new, Green Economy in the 21st century where natural or nature-based assets become part of mainstream economic and policy planning.
The TEEB climate issues update says that governments can already take steps to include ecosystem services in their national accounts in order to "measure what they manage".
In support of this, it suggests that an upgrading of the United Nations' 2003 handbook on Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting be carried out to include forest carbon.
TEEB findings indicate that investing in the Earth's ecological infrastructure has the potential to offer an excellent rate of return.