You think money grows on trees? Estonian firm seeks finance from forests

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[January 15, 2021]  By Tarmo Virki

TALLINN (Reuters) - Estonian company Single.Earth has raised millions of dollars to buy forests and wetlands, it said on Friday, aiming to tap into a rapidly growing carbon-offset market and public concern over the amount of logging in the country.

Merit Valdsalu, a CEO of an Estonian company Single.Earth, which raises its first investment to buy forests, looks at her phone at a clearcut forest, in Haademeeste, Estonia Janurary 14, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans

The company is a digital platform for landowners that connects them with businesses that will pay them to preserve trees to balance out their own carbon footprints and become "carbon neutral".

It could be fertile ground, given the global carbon-offset market is expected to grow to $200 billion by 2050, from 600 million in 2019, according to Berenberg forecasts.

"Carbon offset and biodiversity offset are actually markets functioning today, but they are not accessible to most forest owners and landowners," Single.Earth Chief Executive Merit Valdsalu said, adding that the returns from offset projects could generate 5% annual returns for landowner investors.

The company said that the founders of local software firm Pipedrive had committed to invest $3.9 million in forests which will be chosen based on Single.Earth data, and that the platform would manage the carbon-offset sales of the forest.

It comes at a time of heated public debate over the amount of logging in the small EU member state, around half of which is covered by forests. There has been several protests over the past year over what campaigners say is excessive logging.

(Additional reporting by Janis Laizans; Editing by Pravin Char)

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