Friday, May 22, 2009

ERE conference Cape Town

For the first time in almost a decade South Africa had its own Environmental & Resource Economics conference

I scribbled down a few notes:

1. Sometimes one needs to speak a hard language to reach soft targets. Speaking in terms of rands and cents can help achieve objectives of care and justice. Economics can be used for the good. It is not only a throwing of "the bones". Really.
2. The narrative to see the environment as a provider of goods and services in support of human well-being is well-entrenched. 
3. Watch those numbers! Flow values, stock values, net present values, discounted values, operational costs etc etc. Always compare apples with apples.
4. Seems like we need a fresh injection of institutional economics to support an analysis on the creation of viable institutions that can support the development of markets in ecosystems services. 
5. The transition from no markets to full PES markets rises many questions on the speed, timing and focus of market reform.  There should be some good learning somewhere in the historical development of financial markets and the transition from communism to market-economies.
6. Talking about payments for ecosystems services (PES); it is not a macro-developmental concept yet, but the signs are encouraging.  With still comparable low values to water and carbon services generated in rural areas, volumes and scale factors remain crucial for success.
7. Be cautious on how much PES at the end will help the rural poor. Do not oversell. Power traps can be deeply entrenched.
8. With increased scarcity of ecosystems good and services, investment in understanding how the "ecosystem supply factory" is working makes sense. More integrated socio-ecological systems modelling.
9. ERE operates in context. Valuation is a means to and end. Economic analysis and modelling is one input to the decision-making process. Invest in understanding where this can achieve the highest leverage.

It was a great event.

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