Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Real world impact of ecosystem valuation

Many environmental economists and ecologists seem to find common ground in the language of valuing "ecosystem goods and services". Since the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, numerous reports have been produced on the topic.  An increasingly important question that is being asked is whether this is all worth the effort.  Does it really make such a difference to provide an economic argument for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems? Would it not be better to just frame an ecological or biodiversity argument?  These questions are very relevant as a typical EGS valuation study does take a lot of effort, discipline and can be quite costly.

A new report 'Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Strategic Environmental Assessment. Lessons from Influential Case Studies' released by the Netherlands Commission on Environmental Assessment provides evidence that results are indeed emerging on a policy level.  

The main messages are as follows:
1. Recognising ecosystems services enhances transparent and engaged decision making
2. Insights in the distribution of ecosystem service benefits highlights poverty and equity issues
3. Valuation of ecosystem services directly facilitates sustainability

4. SEA and planning processes are enhanced by the identification and quantification of ecosystem services

5.  Valuation of ecosystem services is more influential with decision makers 

6.  Methodological complexities do not necessarily hinder influential decision making 

7.  SEA provides a platform to put valuation results in a societal context 

In a nutshell, the value of such a economic valuation of EGS approach is that all beneficiaries are identified and included as stakeholders, all values are taken into account and the distribution of such value can be explicitly included, ecosystems are immediately embedded in socio-economic realities and development needs of the area/city/region/country and the economic value of nature's services communicates far easier to policy makers concerned with poverty and development then biodiversity concepts on its own. 

Ecosystems have a value. Proper investment in such ecosystems improves human well-being and can save households, firms, farmers and authorities a lot of money. 

1 comment:

Jan Tjeerd Boom said...

Dear Martin

The report is really very usefull for policymakers and researchers, so thanks for pointing me to it. For policymakers it shows that environmental valuation, despite its shortcomings, can show how valuable ecosystems are to society. For researchers, one of the messages is that they should concentrate on services that can be measured reliably. All too often, focus is on existence value, which often leads to disputable results. Concentrating on services gives more convincing results and is more relevant for policymakers.