Institutional Affairs

Report adds to economic case for biodiversity protection

20.10.10 @ 18:16

  1. By Andrew Willis

BRUSSELS - Ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss entail huge costs which society simply cannot afford, a new report has claimed.

  • Forestry is a key source of much of the world's biodiversity (Photo: dachalan)

Timed to coincide with UN biodiversity talks in Nagoya, Japan, the document's publication on Wednesday (20 October) seeks to increase the awareness of global decision-makers to the wide array of free 'services' provided by nature.

The services include climate regulation, food provision and water purification - frequently far more costly to recreate through human endeavours, according to: 'The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB): Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature,' the latest in a series of reports on the subject.

The three-year study overseen by Pavan Sukhdev, head of the Green Economy Initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme, also lists a number of policy changes which authorities can use to incentivise the protection of the world's forests, freshwater, soils and coral reefs.

"TEEB has documented not only the multi-trillion dollar importance to the global economy of the natural world, but the kinds of policy-shifts and smart market mechanisms that can embed fresh thinking in a world beset by a rising raft of multiple challenges," said Mr Sukhdev in a statement.

Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Japan and the European Commission are among the main funders of the project.

"While of course valuing nature for itself, we also recognise its economic value in the battle to stop biodiversity loss," said EU environment commissioner Janez Potocnik.

The report shies away from a headline global savings figure, instead listing examples where environmental protection can prove cost-effective in the medium-term.

One example includes a successful system of payments for landowners in Mexico which has halved the annual rate of deforestation, protected water catchments and cloud forests, and avoided emissions of 3.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

A separate study has indicated that CO2 reductions linked to halving deforestation rates by 2030 would avoid damages from climate change estimated at more than US$ 3.7 trillion.

Another example includes a system of 'tradable development rights' in Nagoya which obliges developers who exceed limits on high-rise buildings to offset their impacts by buying and conserving areas of Japan's traditional agricultural landscape.

Wednesday's report seeks to follow in the footsteps of highly-praised 2006 'Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change' which helped draw world attention to the costs of climate change.

International politicians at the tenth meeting of the UN Conference of the Parties (COP 10) in Japan (18-29 October) are currently striving to secure a global deal to slow biodiversity loss and provide a legal framework for the sharing of valuable genetic material.

The EU has said he aims to halt European biodiversity loss by 2020, having earlier failed to reach the same target by 2010.