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Economics Of Ecosystems And Biodiversity For Local And Regional Policy Makers Report Launched At Major Biodiversity Conference In Ghent

September 10, 2010

Factoring the planet’s multi-trillion dollar ecosystem services into policy-making can help save cities and regional authorities money while boosting the local economy, enhancing quality of life, securing livelihoods and generating employment.

This is the finding from a major international study, launched in a report by TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers, being released in Belgium, Brazil, India, Japan and South Africa.

In the Framework of the Belgian Presidency of the European Union, the Flemish Ministry of Environment, Nature and Energy, in cooperation with the European Commission and the other Belgian Ministries of Environment are hosting a conference on biodiversity post 2010 entitled: “Biodiversity in a Changing World”. The TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers report will be launched at this event.

On the first day of the conference, 8 September, TEEB study leader Pavan Sukhdev will present TEEB recommendations in context of the run up to the 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity meeting (CBD COP10) taking place in October, while TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers report coordinator, Dr Heidi Wittmer will present the report findings at the conference on 9 September.

A number of local authorities around the world are already seeing the value of an ecosystems approach to planning. Examples from across Europe include:

For 150 years, a proportion of Swiss forests have been managed to control avalanches, landslides and rock-falls, especially in the Alps (Brändli and Gerold 2001). Some 17% of Swiss forests are managed for hazard protection, usually on a local scale. Support for these measures, and help in identifying specific locations, is strengthened by calculations projecting that these ‘protection forests’ provide services estimated at US$ 2-3.5 billion annually (ISDR 2004).

Rome is one of Europe’s largest cities with the highest number of protected areas. The 19 terrestrial and 1 marine reserve totaling 40,000 ha under protection (31% of the total area) are complemented by 5,000 ha of green public areas.

Local authorities in Wales promote health by increasing and making natural green spaces more accessible. In tackling human health issues in Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) recommended that at least 2ha of accessible natural space per 1000 population should be made available. The 22 local authorities in Wales used a CCW methodology to survey the green spaces in their main population centres and the Welsh Assembly Government set a series of policy targets to encourage green space provision to promote human health. This led to the Wales Environment Strategy 2006-2026. Local authorities are now developing a series of local policy responses which will encourage, amongst other things, the provision of green space during new building developments, as well as community engagement to survey and improve green space. These policy changes are starting to feed through into practice and will result in increased “greening” of towns and cities in Wales. (Source: Welsh Health Survey 2008).

The new report, entitled TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers, prepared by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme, calls on local policy makers to understand the value of their natural capital and the services it provides and apply a focus on nature’s benefits in local policy areas such as urban management, spatial planning and protected areas management.

The report aims to provide an inspiring starting point for thinking local policy in a new way. Highlighting practicality, the report calls for local authorities to take a stepwise approach to assessing options that factor nature’s benefits into local policy action. This approach includes: assessing ecosystem services and expected changes in their availability and distribution; identifying which ecosystem services are most relevant to particular policy issues; assessing impacts of policy options on different groups in the community.

The report highlights cities dependence on nature and illustrates how ecosystem services can provide cost effective solutions to municipal services. It shows how, in rural development and natural resource management, ecosystems services with high market value are often promoted to the detriment of the regulating services that are equally important but less obvious. It investigates planning frameworks and environmental impact assessments that can proactively include a strong focus on ecosystem services and identify the economic potential of this shift in approach.

Enhancing local benefits from conservation and protected areas is studied and guidance is given on incentives that reward good stewardship of local natural capital such as locally adapted payment schemes for ecosystem services, certification and labeling schemes.

Speaking on the eve of the report launch, Pavan Sukhdev, TEEB’s Study Leader, said:

“All economic activity and most of human well-being whether in an urban or non-urban setting is based on a healthy, functioning environment. Nature’s multiple and complex values have direct economic impacts on human well-being and public spending at a local and well as national level.

“Many local authorities are recognizing the benefits of factoring the economic dimension of biodiversity into public planning. It is our hope that this TEEB report will help further this action at a local level.”

The report comes in advance of the CBD COP-10 meeting in Nagoya, Japan this October. Nagoya has also seen the benefit of linking public policy with conservation issues. In order to save the Fujimae Tidal Flat, a vital migratory bird stopover site, from being converted to a landfill site to meet the city’s waste management needs, the City of Nagoya initiated a major waste reduction and recycling programme. This programme started in 1998 and involved extensive community education about correct recycling. The efforts paid off and Nagoya met its target of a 20 per cent decrease in waste within two years and won national awards for environmental practice. In the last ten years the volume of sorted waste has tripled, the volume of processed waste is down 30 per cent and the volume of landfill has been reduced by 60 per cent. Since 2002 the Fujimae Tidal Flat has been listed on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. (Source: Environmental Affairs Bureau, City of Nagoya)

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, commented:

“Sizing the problem of ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss in economic terms was the main focus for TEEB’s report to CBD COP-9. Now as we head towards COP-10 I am pleased to see that TEEB’s focus is on solutions that are both workable and economically successful.

“State and provincial governments, local authorities, city and county councils””the audience for today’s new report– can all make a huge contribution to overall efforts towards a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy. This is because some 70 per cent of humanity’s ecological footprint is now linked with the way resources are consumed in cities. Some Local governments are already rising to the challenge as the wide range of case studies and solutions spotlighted show– from land-use planning which incorporates ecosystem service values, to new legislation and payments for ecosystem services. Many more now need to come onboard.”

The TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers report also underlines three key issues beyond the appraisal of ecosystem services that need attention if natural capital will work for local development:

1: Ensure the fair distribution of rights to nature’s benefits. Policy changes often affect service distribution or access ““ and this must be considered during decision-making.

2: Maximise use of available scientific and experience based knowledge as this will help provide a common language to capture diverse views.

3: Engage stakeholders throughout the process to prioritize and develop feasible and effective local policy action.

TEEB has collaborated with the European Environment Agency’s online Environmental Atlas to present a series of case studies from around the world that highlight efforts being made to incorporate ecosystems and biodiversity into local policy initiatives. The case studies can be accessed via a link on www.teebweb.org.

Over 140 experts from science, economics and policy from more than 40 countries across the globe have been involved in the research, analysis and writing of the TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers report, which has been coordinated by Heidi Wittmer of the UFZ Helmholtz Research Centre and Haripriya Gundimeda of the Indian Institute of Technology.

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