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IP/09/1710

13 November 2009

Environment: Keeping ecosystems healthy makes economic sense and is vital to control climate change, says Commissioner Dimas

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas will today underline the importance of valuing the benefits we derive from nature in order to protect them more effectively. Nature provides numerous services for free, like water regulation flood protection and carbon storage. Growing pressure on ecosystems around the world means that the provision of many of these services is now at risk. While technological solutions can replace some of them, this usually comes at a significant cost. Protecting and restoring biodiversity is therefore an essential step in the transition to a more sustainable economy, particularly because biodiversity will also play a vital role if we are to succeed in combating climate change. Commissioner Dimas will launch the findings in a key report by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project, a major independent global study co-funded by the European Commission. Study leader Pavan Sukhdev will also present the TEEB for Policy Makers Report.

Commissioner Dimas said: "The findings of this TEEB report are clear: the failure to protect nature is often a consequence of our failure to understand its value. We must learn to value nature to protect it more effectively. Too often, nature is considered as having little if any economic relevance, but the truth is it sustains and underpins our economies and societies, and can offer effective protection against climate change. We will not succeed in mitigating or adapting to climate change if we do not protect valuable ecosystems, and we will not manage to halt biodiversity loss if we fail to prevent dangerous levels of climate change."

TEEB Study leader Pavan Sukhdev said: "The economic invisibility of ecosystems and biodiversity is a major reason for their alarming loss, despite their tremendous economic value to society. Our stock of natural assets, or natural capital, is as important as man-made assets or physical capital. Recognising and rewarding the value of benefits flowing to society from natural capital must become a policy priority."

Nature – a cost-effective investment

The report shows that investing in protecting ecosystems can be very cost-effective. Nature supports a wide range of economic sectors and expands our options for long-term economic growth. Nature's capacity to provide vital services such as fresh water and climate regulation is often cheaper than having to invest in technological solutions. Protected areas – the cornerstone of our conservation policies – are not only good for nature; they can also generate significant benefits. In Scotland, the public benefits of protecting the Natura 2000 network (the European network of protected areas) are estimated to be three times greater than its costs.

Nature is also the most cost-effective way of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Despite mitigation efforts, risks of natural hazards are predicted to increase with climate change. Investments in healthy ecosystems will be important for protection against events such as floods and storms. They are even more attractive when the full range of services they provide is taken into account.

The findings further underline the need for agreement in Copenhagen on financing action to reduce carbon dioxide (CO 2) emissions from deforestation and degradation in tropical countries (through a scheme known as REDD). Deforestation and forest degradation are responsible for around 20% of global CO 2 emissions – more than all forms of transport combined. The EU wants the Copenhagen agreement to set the goal of at least halving tropical deforestation from current levels by 2020 and halting global forest cover loss completely by 2030. The European Commission’s proposal to scale up financing to developing countries to help fight climate change includes provisions to halt deforestation (see IP/09/1297 ).

Challenges ahead

The report highlights two main challenges for policy-makers. The first is to understand the values of our ecosystems, biodiversity and natural resources and integrate them into decision-making across all policy areas at all levels – local, national and global. The second is to respond efficiently and to tailor policy solutions to the needs of different economies and societies. Better understanding and measuring of biodiversity and eco-system values to support integrated policy assessments are a core part of the long-term solution.

Background

TEEB was launched by Germany and the European Commission in response to a proposal by the G8+5 Environment Ministers, meeting in Potsdam, Germany in 2007, for an independent global study on the economics of biodiversity loss. It is led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with financial support from the European Commission, Germany and the UK, joined more recently by Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden.

A UNEP press release and all TEEB reports are available at www.teebweb.org .

The press conference will take place at 1400 at the Hotel Sofitel Brussels Europe, 1 Place Jourdan, Brussels. A video news release is available at:

http://www.tvlink.org/media.php?type=video&chid=11&titleleft=Environment&order_by=date&chid=11&offset=5


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