The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity - TEEB

TEEBHuman existence would not be possible without such things as water and air purification, nutrient cycling and the maintenance of biodiversity – nature provides these “ecosystem services” at no cost to the consumer. These predominantly public goods typically have no markets and no prices, so their gradual disappearance is not reflected in our current economic system. Various factors including population growth, changing diets, urbanization, and climate change are causing biodiversity to decline and ecosystems to be degraded. The world’s poor are most reliant on the degrading ecosystem services and thus are most at risk from the continuing loss of biodiversity.

In March 2007, the G8+5 environment ministers endorsed a study to look at the economic value of biodiversity and ecosystem services, as well as the long-term economic consequences of the continuing loss of biodiversity. The goal of the study, known as The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), is to motivate actions to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment and the European Commission, with the support of an Advisory Board and under the leadership of Pavan Sukhdev, initiated work on this global study.

The TEEB project is being implemented in two phases. The preliminary findings from Phase I were launched by Germany’s Minister for the Environment Sigmar Gabriel and Commissioner Stavros Dimas of the European Commission at the High-Level Segment of the Ninth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP-9) in Germany in May 2008.

The TEEB Interim report shows that if the right policies are not adopted, the current decline in biodiversity and the related loss of ecosystem services will continue and even accelerate in some cases, leaving certain ecosystems beyond repair. With a “business-as-usual” scenario, serious consequences could arise by 2050:

  • 11% of the natural areas remaining in 2000 could be lost, mainly due to conversion for agriculture, the expansion of infrastructure, and climate change;
  • almost 40% of the land currently under low-impact forms of agriculture could be converted to intensive agricultural use, with further biodiversity losses;
  • 60% of coral reefs could be lost – even by 2030 – through fishing, pollution, diseases, invasive alien species and coral bleaching due to climate change.

As a key component of the UNEP Green Economy initiative, Phase II of TEEB will expand on the findings from the interim report and aims to demonstrate that economics can be a powerful instrument in biodiversity policy. Phase II seeks to make a credible economic and development case for conserving, sustainably using, and investing in biodiversity and ecosystems with equitable sharing of benefits. The ultimate goal of TEEB will be to provide policy makers with the tools they need to incorporate the true value of ecosystem services into their decisions. The study will run into 2009 and 2010 with the final results presented at CBD COP-10 in 2010.