The synthesis report of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) clearly shows the potential of incorporating the value of nature into decision-making. The launch of the two-year study, which has involved hundreds of experts from around the world, took place yesterday, October 20, at the Convention on Biological Diversity's 10th Conference of the Parties meeting "COP10" in Nagoya.
Many now hope that the economic importance of the world's natural assets will be firmly on the international political radar as a result of this assessment showcasing the enormous economic value of forests, freshwater, soils and coral reefs, as well as the social and economic costs of their loss.
- 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, said study leader Pavan Sukhdev, who heads up the Green Economy Initiative of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The TEEB study calls for wider recognition of ecosystem service's contribution to human livelihoods, health, security, and culture by decision-makers at all levels. It promotes the demonstration, and where appropriate, the capture of the economic values of nature's services through an array of policy instruments and mechanisms.
What is the best solution to tackling climate change and other environmental problems? There is no panacea, and we have to experiment with multiple approaches, says Elinor Ostrom, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in economics, in a recent interview published in the Global Change magazine.
In 2009, Elinor Ostrom became the first woman to receive the prestigious Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for her work showing how common resources — forests, fisheries, oil fields or grazing lands — can be managed successfully by the people who use them, rather than by governments or private companies. In the newly published interview she explains the reasoning behind her work in her own words:
“At one end of the spectrum, the belief that government ownership is the best way to manage natural resources – forests, for example – has in some cases led to a marked reduction in the resource. At the other end, imposing decentralisation as a remedy without a proper understanding of the local society has triggered ethnic conflict. Social-ecological systems are complex and nested, and resource users around the world vary widely in their preferences and perceptions. Such systems are not amenable to being characterised by simple models.”
Read the whole interview in the latest issue of the eminent Global Change magazine from the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP). It can be accessed online at: http://www.igbp.kva.se/page.php?pid=231
Watch Professor Johan Rockström, Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre, in a brand new TED-talk. Human growth has strained the Earth's resources, but as Johan reminds us, our advances also give us the science to recognize this and change behavior. His research has found nine "planetary boundaries" that can guide us in protecting our planet's many overlapping ecosystems.
In this video Pavan Sukhdev, head of UNEP's Green Economy and study leader of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project, explains the true value of biodiversity and ecosystem services to human well-being.
The world is slowly wakening up to biodiversity loss and there are both serious risks to business, as well as significant opportunities, associated with biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. These are some of the major conclusions drawn in the new report ”The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Business”, which was recently launched at the first Global Business of Biodiversity Symposium in London.
– Through the work of TEEB and others, the economic importance of biodiversity and ecosystems is emerging from the invisible into the visible spectrum, says Pavan Sukhdev, the TEEB Study Leader and also head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative, in a press release.
The new report cites a number of cases where businesses have started to think about ecosystems and their biodiversity as an extension of their asset base. It also identifies practical tools to manage biodiversity risks and highlights some emerging business models that deliver biodiversity benefits and ecosystem services on a commercial basis.
Sea cucumbers are a highly valued resource in coastal communities of the Western Indian Ocean. There are, however, increasing indications that these fisheries are in trouble and slipping toward degradation.
While largely unknown in the English-speaking world, sea cucumber (trepang, bêche-de-mer or balate) fisheries are widespread around the world. In the Western Indian Ocean, the sea cucumber industry has existed for over a century and is an important livelihood source in many coastal households. However, it is an industry that is becoming increasingly brittle. The total sea cucumber catches have been declining over the last 10 years and fishers are catching smaller individuals and having to target lower-value sea cucumber species (since many high-value species have been depleted from the fishing grounds). These negative trends have been driven by an expansion of the industry that is fueled by the huge demands of, mainly, the Asian market.
In Kenya, these fisheries are poorly understood and the current management policies are woefully inadequate to confront the emerging challenges. A newly published study in Ocean & Coastal Management by Swedish and Kenyan researchers begins adressing critical knowledge gaps in Kenyan sea cucumber fisheries. They show that Kenyan sea cucumber stocks show several signs of over-harvesting.
- Commercially valuable species may be threatened with depletion if control measuresare not put in place urgently. Collection of the previously low-value species and small-size sea cucumbers is increasing due to high demand in the Asian market and the high profits from these sizes, says co-author Maricela de la Torre-Castro
Sea cucumbers sold in Chinese market. Photo courtesy of Max Troell/azote.se
A groundbreaking study from researchers in Georgia unexpectedly finds that protected areas in two developing countries - Thailand and Costa Rica - may have helped relieve poverty in nearby communities over time.
Global efforts to protect nature are gaining some headway (for example see the REDD initiative). Setting up protected areas, in essence chunks of nature that are left untouched by humans, is a tool often touted as the best mechanism to do this. However, the evidence for protected areas really "protecting" nature are equivocal. In many cases the areas are too small and the protection status too poorly enforced for any positive effects to occur. Another controversial issue is how these protected areas affect the economic development of neighboring human communities. Some people argue that protected areas make poverty worse in local communities by restricting access to important economic activities like agriculture and logging. On the other hand, others have argued that locals may benefit from improved ecosystem services and associated ecotourism.
Moist cloudforest in the Monteverde National Park in Costa Rica. Photo by Miran Kegl/azote.se
On 31 May-2 June, the Swedish government will host the World Bank's Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE). This year it focuses explicitly on environmental issues in light of the financial and economic crisis, fragile states and human and social development.
The conference will gather some of the most prominent researchers in the areas of economics, environment and development, and bring them together with policy makers and practitioners from all over the world. Speakers include Nobel Laureates Elinor Ostrom, Joseph Stiglitz, Eric Maskin, James Mirrlees and Robert Solow, as well as leading environmental researchers like Paul Ehrlich, Simon Levin and Johan Rockström.
Some of the most urgent global challenges, such as environment and climate change as well as the financial and economic crisis, will be covered during the conference. The overall theme is Development Challenges in a Post-Crisis World and the conference will focus on five broad topics:
Environmental Commons and the Green Economy
Post-Crisis Debates on Development Strategy
The Political Economy of Fragile States
News Ways of Measuring Welfare
Social Programs and Transfers: Are We Learning?
The ABCDE-Conference was first organized in 1989 and has, since then, been established as one of the most prominent annual conferences on development economics. This year's conference will gather around 600 delegates and experts from all over the world in Stockholm.