Economics of the ecosystems: what conservationists think about the TEEB process
Contribution of the SCB-ES and the Working Group for Ecological Economics & Sustainability Science to the TEEB Call for Evidence Phase II
Mike Larson, Rob Dietz and Martin Dieterich
Nature provides services like clear water, erosion protection and fertile soil. Although, our well-being is dependant on these services, humans intentionally or ignorantly destroy nature because of short term economic profit. Environmental services are public goods lacking a market value, and consequentially a value in the political arena. As a result, many ecosystems have already been damaged or destroyed.
The study “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)” was launched in 2007 as a part of the so-called 'Potsdam Initiative' for biodiversity. The TEEB is designed to attribute a more realistic value to ecosystem services and biodiversity. Such valuation translates into the recognition of economic loss underlying the destruction of nature. Losses may by far surpass the cost for effective protection of biodiversity, and is an important step beyond the 2010 target.
Exploratory work in assessing current knowledge on ecosystem and biodiversity valuation (phase I of the TEEB study) was concluded with an interim report in 2008. Phase II has now been launched to achieve the following objectives:
- firm up the science and economics framework to ecosystem valuation
- evaluate and publish a recommended valuation methodology
- engage the key end-users of the valuation work
- evaluate and publish a toolkit for policy makers and administrators
See more on TEEB: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/biodiversity/economics/
While in the preface to the interim report the study leader, Pavan Sukhdev, has acknowledged the need for improvement or replacement of the “economic compass” used today, the TEEB in phase I falls short of a critical assessment of underlying economic paradigms linked to the principles of strong sustainability.
The SCB-ES supported by the SCB Working Group for Ecological Economics and Sustainability Science (Mike Larson, Robert Dietz, Martin Dieterich) has produced a statement to be incorporated into the EU call for evidence to Phase II of the TEEB study:
According to the statement the TEEB strongly focuses on microeconomics (i.e. valuation methods & cost-benefit analysis). While appropriate valuation is an important first step, the TEEB focus prevents sufficient treatment of macroeconomics (e.g. size of economies and subsequent resource appropriation, policies that promote throughput growth), which in many ways is more relevant to biodiversity conservation, in order to deliver a basics for effective nature conservation as a precondition for sustainability, TEEB and similar initiatives need to go beyond a scope that is limited to valuation and other microeconomic tools.
Subsequent TEEB reports should acknowledge and be explicit that (1) increases in the human population and per capita rates of consumption of materials, which combined constitute economic growth (i.e., increasing GDP), are the ultimate causes of biodiversity loss, and (2) there is an inherent and unavoidable trade-off between economic growth and biodiversity conservation
Ecology and economics should be much more equal partners in TEEB. Ecologists should not simply provide data for economists to apply their concepts, tools, and models. Socio-economic systems are subsystems within the finite biophysical world, for which ecological concepts, tools and models may be more useful or relevant.
See the text of the whole statement here: http://www.conbio.org/sections/europe/Policy/ under Resolutions