The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

The largest-ever global study on The Economics of Ecosystems and
Biodiversity (TEEB) was released today in class=”xn-location”>Nagoya, class=”xn-location”>Japan, at the Convention on
Biodiversity’s 10th Conference of the

The study, Mainstreaming the Economics of
was led by a top international banker (Pavan Sukhdev)
and sponsored by the U.N. and a host of

It finds that nature provides trillions of dollars
in ‘free’, life-supporting services to us each year, and that
failing to count the value of those services is having major
effects on the environment and the economy - including in

The study makes clear the enormous economic
importance of the world’s natural assets - such as forests,
freshwater, soil, wildlife and wetlands - as well as the social and
economic costs of their loss.

It also offers solutions: demonstrating how economic
tools (such as eco-taxes, greening GDP, or biodiversity ‘offsets’)
can harness market forces to better conserve and manage our natural
capital endowment, which is rapidly diminishing.

“The demonstration of economic value,
even if it does not result in specific measures that capture the
value, can be an important aid in achieving more efficient use of
natural resources. It can also highlight the costs of achieving
environmental targets and help identify more efficient means of
delivering ecosystem services.”

“Nature is the most valuable asset we have - worth
more than all human economic activity - yet we are squandering this
priceless resource,” Professor Stewart
, Chair of Sustainable Prosperity, a green economy
think tank based at University of Ottawa. 

“Because we get nature’s services for free, we tend
to use them wastefully - much like a tenant who doesn’t pay for
electricity leaves the lights on.”

The highlights of the TEEB study

  • Reducing forest loss by half would
    generate $3.7 trillion worth of
    greenhouse gas reductions

  • Depletion of natural
    capital will cost an estimated  7% of global GDP by 2050 (TEEB
    interim report)

  • The largest 3,000
    companies cause $2.2 trillion in
    uncounted environmental costs: ⅓ of their profits 

  • The rural poor are
    particularly hard hit by loss of natural capital (it affects 47-89%
    of their income)

This global study has important lessons for
Canada.  “Canada is blessed
with one of the richest natural endowments of any country on Earth,
yet we have not been very good stewards to date,” said class=”xn-person”>Professor Elgie

A recent OECD report ranked class=”xn-location”>Canada 29th of 33 countries
in creating economic incentives to reduce pollution and conserve

“This report is a wake-up call for class=”xn-location”>Canada,” said Elgie, “we need to develop
our own action plans - at the national and provincial levels - to
value our wildlife and nature, and create economic incentives to
conserve them. If we undervalue the life-supporting services that
nature provides, we mortgage our future.”

Mainstreaming the Economics of
proposes that economic instruments can be
used to provide the right incentives: to reward ecosystem
conservation, promote development of cleaner technologies, and
foster sustainable resource management.

already has some experience with such approaches, which will
be surveyed in the forthcoming Sustainable Prosperity report,
Advancing the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in class=”xn-location”>Canada
.  Highlights

  • Canada’s northern boreal forest provides ecosystem
    services worth $191 billion/year: 14
    times more than the value of all oil, minerals and timbers
    extracted there each year.

  • Southern Ontario’s Greenbelt provides ecosystem
    services worth $2.6

  • Using economic incentives, Ducks Unlimited and its partners
    have conserved or restored more than 6 million acres of wetland
    habitat in Canada.

To view the UN TEEB Report, visit href=””


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