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Financial Innovation (Collection) by Franklin Allen, Glenn Yago, James R. Barth

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5. Environmental Finance: Innovating to Save the Planet

The now-famous “inconvenient truth” of the twenty-first century is that our collective failure to value our natural resources has placed the planet in real peril. Pollution, deforestation, and climate change are taking a fearsome toll on biodiversity, nature’s astounding variety of plant and animal species.

Back in 1997, a group of economists and biologists estimated that humans derive trillions of dollars each year in benefits from ecosystem services that they don’t pay for—benefits that total between 55% and 185% of global GDP.1 In purely economic terms, this equation is unsustainable.

Under the weight of our consumption, the world’s stocks of natural capital—that is, ecosystems and the ...

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