Nature based CO2 removals: theory of evolution?

Learning curves and cost deflation are widely assumed in new energies but overlooked for nature-based CO2 removals. This 15-page note finds the CO2 uptake of reforestation projects could double again from here. Support for NBS has already stepped up sharply in 2021. Beneficiaries include the supply chain and leading projects.


Nature based carbon removals are re-capped on page 2, covering their important, their costs and how they are re-shaping the energy transition.

But policy support is growing faster than expected, as outlined on pages 3-5. Now that nature-based CO2 removals are on the map, they are in competition with other new energies. Hence which technologies will ‘improve fastest’?

The historical precedent from agriculture is that yields have improved 4-7x over 50-100 years, due to learning curve effects. So will forestry practices be similar? (pages 6-7).

Thirty variables can be optimized when re-foresting a degraded eco-system. We run through the most important examples on pages 8-13.

But is optimizing nature ‘natural’? This is a philosophical question. Our own perspectives and conclusions are offered on page 14-15.

Reforestation: a real-life roadmap?

This 12-page note sets out an early-stage ambition for Thunder Said Energy to reforest former farmland in Estonia, producing high-quality CO2 credits in a biodiverse forest. The primary purpose would be to stress-test nature-based carbon removals in our roadmap to net zero, and understand the bottlenecks. IRRs can also surpass 10% at $35-50/ton CO2.


The correct way to structure a reforestation project is one of the most important questions in the energy transition, but few seem to have cracked the code. This is our conclusion from hundreds of models and discussions, which are summarized on pages 2-4.

Our own interests in undertaking a reforestation project are set out on 5-8, combining personal circumstances, economics and an aspiration to understand the reforestation process in more detail.

What will a high-quality project need to look like? Our expectations and goals are set out on pages 9-12. As transparently as possible. This is a structured list of questions, and our initial hypotheses, to be addressed in future research.