Wrestling with The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Here is an article that was published in the June issue of Decision Point- the Environmental Decision Group‘s monthly magazine. You can download it for free here. Also, DP Editor David Salt makes a nice mention of economical ecology in the ‘Caught in the Web’ feature on pg 15. Thanks David!

Many people working in the field of conservation science would have heard of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, but may not be familiar with the type of work that has been undertaken so far, and how it might be relevant to EDG’s research in environmental decision making. I went along to the inaugural conference to find out – what exactly is TEEB?

What’s valuation got to do with it?

Put simply, TEEB advocates the use of economic valuation as a necessary step to mainstreaming the value of ecosystems and biodiversity into public decision-making processes. Without a dollar value on nature, TEEB argues, decision makers implicitly place a ‘zero’ value on biodiversity when assessing trade-offs between ecological values and other societal goals. TEEB leader Pavan Sukhdev describes this as the ‘economic invisibility of nature’.

Now, there are many arguments against the use of monetary valuation. These include moral objections to the monetization of nature, ethical considerations over the needs of current and future generations, and concerns over whether the time and effort spent actually conducting a valuation outweigh the benefits of including this additional information within the decision making process.

TEEB acknowledges these issues, as well as the strengths and limitations of the range of valuation methodologies and suggests that monetary valuation may not always be necessary., In some circumstances valuation may be counterproductive if it is seen as contrary to cultural norms, or fails to reflect a plurality of values.

Where valuation is considered to be useful, it may be that demonstrating the economic value in is sufficient to assist decision making, or else the next step may be to capture value through a range of market and non-market based incentives or regulations.

The TEEB Conference in Leipzig earlier this year was the first opportunity to see how researchers and policy makers had responded to TEEB’s recommendations. Had these recommendations made a difference? Had they been put into practice around the world?

Read the rest of the article here

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