Saturday, November 21, 2009

European study addresses the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity…

As a follow up to my Sept. 11 post, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity released its report for policymakers. According to this study, factoring multi-trillion dollar ecosystem services into national and international investment strategies are likely to deliver high rates of return and strong economic growth in the 21st century. Some countries are making the link and seeing benefits in terms of economic returns that outstrip those wedded to economic models of the previous century, notes a press release from the UN Environment Program.

The report, subtitled Responding to the Value of Nature, calls on policymakers to accelerate, scale-up, and embed investments in the management and restoration of ecosystems. “Nature’s multiple and complex values have direct economic impacts on human well-being and public and private spending. Recognizing and rewarding the value delivered to society by the natural environment must become a policy priority,” noted TEEB study leader Pavan Sukhdev at a press conference in Brussels.

The report has a number of recommendations, including investing in ecological infrastructure. This can provide cost-effective opportunities to increase resilience to climate change, reduce risk from natural hazards, improve food and water security, and contribute to poverty alleviation. Investments in maintenance and conservation are almost always cheaper than trying to restore damaged ecosystems and the social benefits that flow from restoration can be several times higher than the costs.

Since protected areas are a cornerstone of conservation policies and provide multiple benefits, an investment of $45 billion US in protected areas could secure vital nature-based services worth $5 trillion US a year, including the sequestration of carbon, the protection and enhancement of water resources, and protection against flooding. The global protected area network covers 13.9 percent of the Earth’s land surface and nearly one-sixth of the world’s population depend on these lands for a significant percentage of their livelihoods.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity was launched by Germany and the European Commission in 2007 to develop a global study on the economics of biodiversity loss. TEEB is hosted by UNEP with financial support from the European Commission, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and United Kingdom. The latest study is one of a series of five interconnected reports which will be released through 2010, including an analysis of the economic values for the main types of ecosystem services around the world.