The Securitization, Commoditization, and Financialization of Nature

CCAO spring 2012 intern, Joanne Angbazo
May 2, 2012

Joanne Angbazo

For those of you that were not scared away from the title of my blog, I promise, I will simplify it for you! Unfortunately for me, when I heard these terms for the first time at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington DC, let’s just say my participation in the discussion aspect was very minimal and almost nonexistent apart from my “where is the restroom” comment—I was very lost in the conversation.

Nonetheless I learned a lot about the new controversy concerning nature. The concern is not just about being “green” anymore—now the concern is regarding the investors, national governments, and international agencies trying to “get green” by creating markets for the different aspects of nature in order to provide new ways for the financial sector to profit.

At the discussion, representatives from the organizations in attendance argued that this trend of corporate securitizing, commodifying, and financializing nature—in simpler terms, putting a value on nature, water, land, carbon, species, habitats, and biodiversity—deviates from the intended meaning of green economy by deemphasizing the “green” idea of environmental consciousness while emphasizing the “economy.”

I am not well informed about theory of the “green economy” but this discussion definitely made me a tad more critical of it. Why does everything need to be priced and how does pricing actually protect nature? Which would be worth more—the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls? Valuation of nature does not seem to reduce environmental risks and seems like it could only benefit the private institutions who want to “grow, invest in, and manage” natural resources. By pricing nature, I can only see the implications that one aspect of nature will be worth saving over another.

With the upcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit focusing on building a “green economy” and as institutions like the World Bank begin developing ways to price nature, I am especially interested in following up with this increasingly relevant issue.