Healthy ecosystem, healthy economy

Healthy ecosystem, healthy economy

Friday, 10 September, 2010

How do you set a value on nature? What’s the relationship between ecosystems and effective local policy making and how does conservation banking work? With the Convention on Biodiversity just weeks away, a report out from a UN hosted group covers these issues, showing local policy makers how a healthy ecosystem can equate to a healthy economy.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)’s report shows how urban needs can be met cost-effectively through access to what they term ‘eco services’. It lists examples such as the provision of water and food, the regulation of extreme weather events and soil erosion, and cultural aspects such as tourism and recreation.

The role of local authorities   

TEEB urges local policy makers to read the report and recognise the benefits provided by nature, “By focusing on the various benefits from nature we can see the direct and indirect ways that we depend on the natural environment and this insight can substantially support local policy and public management,” says Study Leader Pavan Sukhdev.

Concrete examples are given: “In the Sourou Valley wetland (Burkina Faso) development efforts focussed on agriculture. Recently, a valuation of the wetland’s benefits revealed that more than 80% of its value related to a variety of forest products, fodder, and fisheries, whereas agriculture accounted for 3% only. These figures now help reorient management strategies.”

With input from over 140 experts covering the fields of science, economics and policy, spanning more than 40 countries worldwide, the report’s findings make compelling reading.

Three clear points emerge:

  • Decision making needs to take on board people’s rights to natural assets and access or distribution can all too often be affected by policy.
  • Knowledge gleaned from scientific research and experience needs to be used to the full as a way to ensure a common language when discussing contentious issues.
  • People directly impacted by the status of the ecosystems around them should be engaged throughout the decision-making process.

European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik said: "Local and regional planning authorities wield enormous power, and can be a tremendous force for good. This report showcases numerous examples of the successful integration of biodiversity-friendly thinking into local planning decisions around the world, with detailed benefits for local citizens. In many cases, it's a roadmap to environmental success."