Archive for the ‘TEEB’ Category

Refining the definition of PES schemes

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

The original definition of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes by Wunder et al. (2005) was recently modified to reflect variations in the implementation of real-life PES schemes.

Sven Wunder presented the modified definition at the CIVILand conference on payments for ecosystem services and their institutional dimensions organized in November 2011 by the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (pdf of the presentation here).

The definition has been reformulated as follows (in italics):

1. voluntary transaction – to a variable extent on the buyer side; to full extent on provider side

2. a well-defined environmental service (ES) or a land-use proxy, or some bundle thereof

3. is being “bought” by a (min. one) ES buyer – which can be a public entity

4. from a (min. one) ES provider or a community

5. if and only if the ES provider continuously secures ES provision – i.e. conditionality has to be present to some extent in design and function

The institutional needs for PES schemes remain the same: cooperation & trust between providers, buyers, and regulators, land & resource rights, degradation rights, and low transaction costs.

TEEB on TED

Friday, December 30th, 2011

On TED, Pavan Sukhdev – who lead the TEEB initiative – explains why we need to “value nature” in order to manage it sustainably.

He ends his talk on the suggestion to focus efforts on “green” and “blue” carbon as part of climate change mitigation. Green and blue carbon is the carbon stored in terrestrial and marine ecosystems respectively.

Pavan Sukhdev tells us that he strongly supports the REDD+ mechanisms, whereby emitting countries fund projects in forested countries that avoid deforestation and/or forest degradation. There is a lot of potential there for synergies between carbon sequestration goals and the continued provision of other ecosystem services (and biodiversity).

Concerning blue carbon, it is interesting to note how he explains that we, collectively, have made the ethical choice to lose coral reefs through unmitigated climate change. It was probably an implicit choice, but it is quite revealing that Pavan Sukhdev and TEEB recognize that there are critical thresholds of biodiversity and ecosystem service loss. Those thresholds can be ecological (to avoid extinction or complete loss) or social but they certainly define the boundaries of our future life support system. Good debates to be had there…

Biodiversity: you can only manage what you can measure!

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Francis Vorhies, the Green Mind columnist in Forbes Magazine, recently published a short piece on biodiversity.

His article emphasizes the various definitions of biodiversity, highlighting two alternatives: (1) a focus on wild species and their habitat requirements (as in the USA) or (2) “the integrity and diversity of natural environments and processes” (more akin to the CBD‘s definition).

He states that for companies, the second approach is probably more useful. He doesn’t however explain why… and I would tend to think the opposite.

The integrity and diversity of environments and processes is much harder to pin-down, and hence measure, monitor and manage, than the presence, absence or abundance of a species in a given area of land.

The issue of biodiversity, in terms of impacts, responsibilities and opportunities, can only be dealt with if it can be properly managed. Some say you can only manage what you can measure…

The knowledge base for identifying and measuring species and their habitats is stronger than that of complex interacting ecological processes, let alone “integrity” which requires setting a reference (which one?).

What do you think?

The nature of ecosystem service risks for business

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

KMPG, a consultancy, recently published a report on ecosystem service related risks to business. The 20-pages report is available for free on the web (pdf here) and it provides some interesting insights into the business point of view.

A complex issue that needs to be made more palatable
The report mentions the need to demystify biodiversity and ecosystem services for business. This is probably central to any further consideration of these issues in the corporate world yet the report starts by mingling the complex and varied issues of biodiversity and ecosystem services into a single handy acronym “BES”. This is certainly helpful but such over-simplification could also generate confusion. Business leaders and decision-makers will be tempted to look for all-in-one solutions to all their “BES issues”, with little regard to differences in the specific issues they have to consider: land degradation, dynamics of species and natural habitats, natural resources (water, timber etc.), access to land…

Risks : exposure x preparedness
The report offers a nice summary of BES-related risks for businesses. These 5 risks are the same as those of the TEEB report but they come in handy:

  • Reputational risk, especially concerning access to funding
  • Regulatory risk, such as the expansion of protected areas or the strengthening of protected species legislation
  • Operational risk, concerning the sustained provision of key inputs (e.g. clean water) or ecosystem services
  • Legal liability risk, for example in the case of accidental damage to ecosystems or protected species
  • Systemic risk, when a business is overly dependent on a particular ecosystem service
  • The authors reviewed 11 published reports (which they claim to be “authoritative”) and consulted 5 experts to make a cross-sectoral analysis of business exposure to BES risks (exposure to each of the 5 risks above was rated on a scale of 1 to 3 and an average calculated) and their preparedness (which is a weighted average of scores given on a scale of 1 to 3 for the role of BES in a business’s competitive advantage, governance, policy/strategy and management/implementation). The report identifies three sectors as facing particularly high risk: food & beverages, mining and oil & gas. They also mention the banking sector because it is very unprepared.

    The report concludes by identifying three main areas for companies to focus on:

  • Their dependence on water
  • Their reputational risk, especially if their operations are associated with land conversion (= habitat destruction) or carbon (= green-house gas emissions)
  • Their dependence and impacts on BES throughout their value chain – why dependence on water was singled out as distinct from this broader issue is not explained.
  • Recommended actions and new opportunities (?)
    The report does not provide a new set of suggested actions for increasing a business preparedness regarding BES but instead lists those of the TEEB report. Among these is the recommendation to take action to “avoid, minimize and mitigate BES risks, including in-kind compensation (‘offsets’) where appropriate”. In this regard, it is interesting to note that the report mentions environmental markets as an opportunity for land intensive industries (i.e. extractive industries), if they make the effort to value ecosystem services within their land holdings to “identify potential assets as well as risk”.

    This recommendation, together with a widespread push in favour of payment for ecosystem services schemes and “conservation banking” (the latter is also mentioned in the report) is bound to stir concern in the nature conservation community : should a business be rewarded for owning land that harbours biodiversity or provides ecosystem services or should it be rewarded for actually acting in favour of BES, e.g. through proactive restoration or enhancement efforts?

    The ecosystem valuation debate

    Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

    The Lancaster Environment Centre recently organized an on-line debate on ecosystem valuation. You can check out a summary of the debate on this page. Participants plan to produce a policy guidance document for future UK policy concerning market based instruments for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services.

    The same debate on ecosystem valuation will take place tomorrow in Paris (France), under the auspices of the IDDRI, a think-tank. In preparation to the symposium, Emma Broughton and Romain Pirard wrote a short piece on market-based instruments for biodiversity (pdf).

    Their article proposes a typology of instruments which distinguishes:

  • Regulations changing relative prices
  • Coasean type agreements
  • Reverse auctions
  • Tradable permits
  • Specific markets for environmental products
  • Premium capture on existing markets
  • The authors discuss the pros and cons of each one of these instruments.

    Learn more in the paper and participate in the on-going debate!

    The science of IPBES in Science…

    Friday, February 18th, 2011

    Science magazine published today a policy article about the challenges facing the recently launched Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

    The authors, all of which are key players in the international earth systems science partnership, present the three key challenges for IPBES to reach its goals:

  • Strengthening the science
  • Strengthening assessments
  • Strengthening policy relevance
  • In discussing these challenges, they insist on the need to broaden their partnerships and in particular to seek more input from the policy community, from less developed nations and the social sciences.

    Greater involvement by social sciences is justified by the need to better incorporate “values” of biodiversity and ecosystem services in order to strengthen policy relevance. The authors argue that this valuation step was missing in the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment but put forward by the TEEB initiative in 2010. Let us hope that the IPBES will keep a critical outlook on this agenda.

    Biodiversity in Europe – The message from Liège

    Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

    On 22-24 September, representatives from government, NGOs and business met in Liège (Belgium) for the 5th Intergovernmental Conference on “Biodiversity in Europe”.

    The conference produced a “Message from Liège”, in which European conservation leaders list a range of priorities and recommendations to:

  • Conserve ecosystem services
  • Address the biodiversity impacts of climate change
  • Integrate biodiversity into other sectors of society
  • A new target was suggested to “halt any further loss of species and habitats” and, by 2025, “restore degraded areas with an emphasis on links between biodiversity, ecosystem services, climate change and human well-being”.

    Opening ceremony of the 5th Intergovernmental Conference on “Biodiversity in Europe” (from the official website)

    Opening ceremony of the 5th Intergovernmental Conference on “Biodiversity in Europe” (from the official website)

    The official conference website provides a wealth of links and information in the form of background reports and documents provided to participants. In fact, the selection on offer would warrant a proper analysis in itself. Meanwhile, take your pick!

    TEEB at centre stage

    Many reports were based on the work of the TEEB project. TEEB stands for The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. It aims to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity and the costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, using similar approach as in the Stern report for climate change.

    The TEEB interim report, published in May 2008, was summarized for workshop participants. It’s policy recommendations include expanding the polluter-pay principle to biodiversity loss and ecosystem service degradation (e.g. through the on-site or off-site compensation or offsetting of unavoidable impacts) and to create new markets for biodiversity and ecosystem services (e.g conservation or habitat banks) (see Chapter 4).

    Both instruments require a common currency for offsetting biodiversity and ecosystem services. This requires operational as well as ecologically valid and socially acceptable methods for assessing ecological equivalence. Developing these methods is currently one of the main bottlenecks to the spread of biodiversity offsets.