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The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Not all that is very useful commands high value (water, for example) and not everything that has a high value is very useful (such as a diamond).
       Pavan Sukhdev, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, An Interim Report, 2008

Valuing our natural assets

We depend upon "ecosystem services" provided by nature for free. Services like freshwater, fertile soil, clean air, fisheries and timber. But population growth, changing diets, urbanisation and many other factors are damaging ecosystems and causing biodiversity to decline. While the world’s poor are most at risk, this loss has an impact on us all. It affects our health, wellbeing and livelihood.

Setting a price on natural capital may appear callous. But nature and its services escape pricing and are therefore ignored or undetected by markets. In our economic system, this lack of monetary valuation is a root of the problem.

If we can demonstrate the value of nature in economic terms, it can help everyone, including policymakers and businesses, to reach decisions that consider the full costs and benefits of the proposed use of an ecosystem, rather than just costs that enter markets in the form of private goods.

The TEEB initiative

In March 2007, G8+5 environment ministers called for a global initiative to study the economics of biodiversity loss. Sigmar Gabriel, then Minister for the Environment in Germany and Stavros Dimas, then Commissioner for the Environment, agreed to take the lead and launch the TEEB initiative.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) is a global initiative assessing the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the associated decline in ecosystem services worldwide. It can help decision-makers recognize, demonstrate and capture the values of ecosystem services and biodiversity.

TEEB is now in its third phase. The Commission is financing a UNEP project to help five developing countries apply the TEEB findings. By reflecting the value of ecosystems and biodiversity in policymaking, they can achieve their development goals whilst sustainably managing their natural resources. Read the Guidance Manual or find out more on the TEEB website.

For more information

  • Discover the findings and many informative reports of the TEEB initiative here on the TEEB website.
  • Find out more about the many organisations and private experts which have contributed to the first phase of the initiative with resources, studies, or expertise

Further reading

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