Sunday, October 6, 2013

Georgia takes lead in assessing natural capital…

Georgia is one of the pilot countries that have volunteered to assess its natural capital with the ultimate objective of valuing the services provided by the country’s ecosystems. “Bringing the wealth of the natural world to the attention of decision-makers will pave the way to better informed choices and policies,” said Pavan Sukhdev, chair of the TEEB Advisory Board at the launch of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity Scoping Study in Tbilisi.

The TEEB Scoping Study for Georgia--a joint effort of the Ministry of Environment, UN Environment Program, and WWF Caucasus--is an important step in valuing ecosystems and biodiversity. Identifying five core sectors of Georgian economy--energy, tourism, agriculture, mining, and forestry--the study highlights their dependence on natural capital and related services.

“Considering the rapid development of Georgia’s economy, the TEEB initiative is an effective instrument to help conserve ecosystems while promoting sustainable growth,” said environment minister Khatuna Gogaladze at the launch event on Oct. 1.

Georgia’s agriculture sector employs 53 percent of the workforce and is a main vehicle for rural development. The sector’s long-term sustainability, however, faces challenges associated with reduction of genetic diversity, land degradation due to salinization, and soil erosion. Crop yields are at risk if incentives are not provided to promote, for example, limited pesticide and chemical fertilizer use, soil conservation, and crop rotation.

This first scoping exercise recommends the development of TEEB for Agriculture, a sectoral examination that addresses policies to ensure food security, improve agricultural biodiversity, reduce the extent of land degradation, and maintain agriculture as a strong economic sector, according to a news release from UNEP.

“Nature plays a vital role in sustaining Georgia’s important economic sectors and policy priorities. For example, with its abundance of rivers and varying terrain, the hydropower sector has immense potential. The sector depends, however, on both quality and quantity of freshwater, guaranteed by forests upstream. This is another call for protected ecosystems that would benefit us all,” said Yolanda Kakabadse, president of WWF International.

There have been steps taken toward ecosystem service valuation in neighboring Armenia, with pilot programs initiated by UNEP and REC Caucasus. Some of the areas targeted for Georgia were the subject of my capstone research which focused on the link between natural capital and the tourism, beverage, and hydropower sectors of Armenia’s economy. The main concepts were outlined in my 2011 talk at TEDx Yerevan on Redefining Our Economic Systems.