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The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity. An interim report

20 / 10 / 2008, Eldis Biodiversity

This document aims to promote a better understanding of the true economic value of ecosystem services and to offer economic tools that take proper account of this value. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) is split in two phases and this interim report summarises the results of Phase I. It demonstrates the huge significance of ecosystems and biodiversity and the threats to human welfare if no action is taken to reverse current damage and losses. Phase II will expand on this and show how to use this knowledge to design the right tools and policies. It is highlighted that nature provides human society with a diversity of benefits such as food, fibres, clean water, carbon capture and many more. Though well-being is totally dependent upon the continued flow of these “ecosystem services”, they are predominantly public goods with no markets and no prices, so they are rarely detected by the current economic compass. As a result, biodiversity is declining, ecosystems are being continuously degraded and we, in turn, are suffering the consequences. However, society’s defective economic compass can be repaired with appropriate economics applied to the right information. This will allow existing policies to be improved, new policies to be formed, and new markets to be created, all of which is needed to enhance human well-being and restore the planet’s health. Key points include that:

subsidies exist across the globe and across the economy. They affect everyone and many impact the health of the planet’s ecosystems. Harmful subsidies must be reformed to halt biodiversity loss and achieve appropriate stewardship of the planet’s resources
payments for ecosystem services (PES) can create demand for a necessary market force to correct an existing imbalance
new markets are already forming which support and reward biodiversity and ecosystem services. Some of them have the potential to scale up; but to be successful, markets need appropriate institutional infrastructure, incentives, financing and governance – in short, investment
it is very important that the development of ecosystem/biodiversity accounting in physical and monetary terms is promoted as a key early priority of the ongoing System of Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA) revision, building on the work of EEA and others.

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