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For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The World’s Rivers, 970-218-8310
Don’t Let Wall Street Steal Our National Parks And Rivers
Save The World’s Rivers Opposes SEC-SR-NYSE-2023-09 That Would Create “Natural Asset Companies” Trading on the NYSE
U.S. Rivers: Today, Save The World’s Rivers sent a comment letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission in opposition of “SEC-SR-NYSE-2023-09,” which is an effort to change SEC rules to legalize so-called “Natural Asset Companies” (NAC) in the U.S. and have them publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) (our comment letter is posted here).
The general concept of a NAC is that it would monetize ecosystem protection and restoration services across public and private landscapes, and then allow the buying and selling of stock in those companies on the NYSE, all alleged to lead to better protections for Nature and ecosystem services.
E&E News has a good story here that discusses some of the pros and cons of the proposed rule change by the SEC.
“While the concept of a Natural Asset Company appears that it would help protect and restore Nature, we find the SEC’s proposed rule change, and the documents in the file, to be filled with loopholes,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The World’s Rivers. “Specifically, instead of further protecting Nature, increased monetization of Nature could simply result in a greenwashing effect much like the debacle that has overtaken so-called ‘carbon offset’ programs.”
The SEC proposes that Natural Asset Companies would require “Ecological Performance Reports” (EPR) to the public and investors that describe how Nature and ecosystem services were monetized and thus protected and restored. The SEC then links to a document that discusses the EPR program in detail.
“The EPR proposed by the SEC is vague and filled with loopholes such that a company could claim that many extractive activities are actually ‘ecosystem services’,” continued Wockner. “While many opponents of the rule change believe that it promotes a ‘radical environmental agenda,’ we believe the rule change is simply not strong enough and could be manipulated to fuel even more resource extraction.”
Save The World’s Rivers, as expressed in its comment letter, is especially skeptical about the use of NACs in the field of river protection because the wording in the EPR could easily support more damming and diverting of rivers, not protection or restoration.
Further, the SEC documents even say that NACs could be used in the management of U.S. national Parks: “These assets can be areas that are publicly owned, such as a national park…” (page 7 of Exhibit #4)
“We have serious doubts that the increased monetization of Nature can really help save Nature. The entire field of market-based environmentalism is speculative and fueled by the desire for profit. We doubt that the invisible hand of Wall Street can fix what Wall Street has already broken so badly creating the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis across the planet.”
Two of the biggest global environmental NGOs — Nature Conservancy and Conservation International — are the main supporters of the SEC rule change. Those two NGOs are also the biggest champions of markets for carbon credits and carbon offsets which have been highly ridiculed for mostly being “worthless.” Further, just a few weeks ago at COP28, the European Union squashed an attempt to create a global carbon market because it would’ve created a “free for all” that wasn’t “verifiable, certifiable, and transparent.” The SEC rule change also proposes to use NACs to invest in carbon credits. Some smaller international NGOs claim that the so-called “Big Green” groups have been taken over by finance executives who desire to “financialise and monetise conservation.”
The deadline for comments to the SEC was extended to January 18th.