He and his partner Philip Powell run Envirotrade, whose core business it is to help rural African communities generate carbon credits by changing the way they use their land, and then assist with the sale of those credits in the world carbon markets.
This is where specialised companies like Envirotrade come into their own.
With a grant from the European Union and his own resources, Birley established Envirotrade six years ago and involved the University of Edinburgh in research, which is ongoing and producing a treasure chest of data.
Envirotrade has been helping the communities rebuild their shattered lives by introducing new and sustainable farming practices, establishing markets for their products and building schools and a dispensary.
These villages are earning their new lives with their own sweat and in partnership with organisations such as Envirotrade.
On its part, Envirotrade supplies free saplings to the farmers and a management team which provides on-site advice and technical support.
Over time, as the project matures, up to one-third of carbon credit sales revenues will be retained by Envirotrade to make its own business sustainable, but that is a way off in the future.
Envirotrade has joined the Mozambique Department of Agriculture to launch a sister project in the Zambezi delta, and a third project in and around the new Quirimbas National Park in the north.