Brussels, 20 October 2010
The value of nature: Groundbreaking report reveals critical economic importance of biodiversity
A three-year study project examining the benefits the world gets for free from nature has published its final report. TEEB – The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity – has gathered the best available economic evidence showing that the costs brought by the degradation of ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity are nothing short of unaffordable for our societies. It has synthesised thousands of studies, examined valuation methods, policy instruments and examples of action from around the world. Referring to numerous case studies, the report concludes with ten recommendations to help citizens and policymakers factor biodiversity into everyday decisions. The European Commission is a major funder of the study, which was hosted by the UN environment programme.
European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik said: "While of course valuing nature for itself, we also recognise its economic value in the battle to stop biodiversity loss. The European Commission has supported the TEEB project from the start and will continue to do so. We will look at ways to implement in our policies the analyses developed by TEEB. We are also willing to support initiatives by other countries to demonstrate the benefits and costs of investing in managing biodiversity and ecosystem services."
TEEB Study Leader Pavan Sukhdev said: “TEEB has documented not only the multi-trillion dollar importance to the global economy of the natural world, but the kinds of policy-shifts and smart market mechanisms that can embed fresh thinking in a world beset by a rising raft of multiple challenges. The good news is that many communities and countries are already seeing the potential of incorporating the value of nature into decision-making.”
Learning to value nature
TEEB’s final report, “Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature” complements four reports published over the last three years. Focusing on three areas – a natural ecosystem (forests), a human settlement (cities), and a business sector (mining) – it illustrates how the economic concepts and tools described in TEEB can help society bring the value of nature into decision making at all levels.
The report shows how payments for ecosystem services (PES) can result in better stewardship of natural capital. In Mexico, for example, a PES scheme has halved the annual rate of deforestation, protected water catchments and cloud forests, and avoided emissions of 3.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
With more than half the world's population living in urban areas, cities have a crucial role to play in acknowledging the natural capital required to maintain and improve the well-being of their residents, so TEEB approaches can be extremely important. In Nagoya, Japan, for example, a system of tradable development rights obliges developers who exceed limits on high-rise buildings to offset their impacts by buying and conserving areas of Japan’s traditional agricultural landscape.
Ten top tips for preserving biodiversity
The TEEB study concludes with ten recommendations:
Public disclosure of, and accountability for, impacts on nature should be essential outcomes of biodiversity assessment.
National accounts should be improved to include the value of changes in natural capital stocks and ecosystem service flows.
An urgent priority is to draw up consistent physical accounts for forest stocks and ecosystem services.
Business accounts should disclose externalities such as environmental damage.
No Net Loss of biodiversity’ or ‘Net Positive Impact’ should be considered as normal business practice.
The principles of ‘polluter pays’ and ‘full-cost-recovery’ are powerful guidelines for the realignment of incentive structures and fiscal reform. In some contexts, the principle of ‘beneficiary pays’ can be invoked to support new positive incentives.
Governments should aim for full disclosure of subsidies to avoid perverse incentives.
The establishment of more comprehensive, effective and equitably managed protected areas around the globe should be pursued and ecosystem valuation can help.
The REDD plus forestry conservation system should be implemented as soon as possible.
The dependence of the world's poor on ecosystem services needs wider recognition in development interventions and in policies affecting the environment.
TEEB is a project hosted by UNEP and funded by the EC and governments including Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, and Japan. The project is dedicated to building the economic case for changing the way we assess and manage nature-based assets. Valuation is seen as a tool to help recalibrate the faulty economic compass that has led to decisions that are prejudicial to both current well-being and that of future generations. TEEB reports aim to reveal the invisibility of biodiversity values, as that invisibility has often helped destroy the natural capital that is the foundation of our economies.
All TEEB reports are available at http://www.teebweb.org/