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Roundup: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity
Amanda Reed, 4 Jun 10

The United Nation's project The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) is "a major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward."

After three years of research TEEB recently released the report "TEEB for Policy Makers – Responding to the Value of Nature" (download here), which prompted three excellent response stories in The Guardian...

Economic Report into Biodiversity Crisis Reveals Price of Consuming Planet by Juliette Jowit, the Observer's environment editor.

"We fail to recognise the extent to which we are dependent on natural ecosystems, and not just for goods and services, but also for the stability of the environment in which we survive - there's an element of resilience that's been built into our lives, the ability of our environment to withstand the shocks to which we expose it...the more we lose, the less resilience there is to these shocks, and therefore we increase the risk to society and risk to life and livelihoods and the economy," he added. Sukhdev is a senior banker at Deutsche Bank, adviser to the UN Environment Programme.

(Note: In Jowit's article above she makes reference to an earlier 2008 interim report from TEEB available here.)

Can We Really Put a Price Tag on Nature? by Juliette Jowit, the Observer's environment editor.

What Sukhdev and his team did first was to identify the different habitats that host Earth's estimated 5-30m species and then identify the different "services" they provide: cleaner water from reedbeds and wetlands, coastal protection from mangroves, carbon absorption and rainfall regulation by forests, lifesaving and enhancing medicines from plants, ecotourism, pollination, spiritual inspiration or simple enjoyment...The next problem was to work out how much they were worth...

Why Do We Care About Biodiversity? by Chris Thomas, professor of Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, University of York.

The real cost of damaging nature, it turns out, is at least 10 times greater than the cost of maintaining the ecosystem as it is so that we can reap the associated benefits. To take an example close to the University of York where I work, the costs of flood defence construction and flood-related insurance claims in the Vale of York hugely outweigh the agricultural benefits of drainage ditches and overgrazing in the River Ouse catchment. Rather than treating nature as a pleasant luxury, Teeb argues that we should integrate the real costs and benefits within our decision-making. It should not be the preserve solely of environment and conservation ministries, but it should be at the core of the activities of finance departments...Teeb argues that we should get rid of subsidies that are environmentally damaging and reward beneficial activities that maintain natural ecosystems...

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