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The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)

The initiative on 'The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity' (TEEB) is an important partner in implementing the CBD programme of work on incentive measures, and in particular its work on valuation. This major international initiative, funded by the European Commission, Germany, United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden, and managed by the United Nations Environment Programme as part of its Green Economy Initiative (GEI), seeks 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.

Members of the TEEB Advisory Board include the Executive Director of UNEP, the Executive Secretary of the CBD and the Director General of IUCN, amongst others.

Why does the challenge of conserving and indeed enhancing biodiversity remain unmet?

One key area is economics: many economies remain blind to the huge value of the diversity of animals, plants and other life-forms and their role in healthy and functioning ecosystems from forests and freshwaters to soils, oceans and even the atmosphere. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity aims to bridge understanding and driving action in this area.

In May 2008 the TEEB Interim Report, released at CBD COP9, highlighted the inextricable link between poverty and the loss of ecosystems and biodiversity. It showed how several Millennium Development Goals were at risk due to the neglect and deterioration of ecosystems and biodiversity.

Phase II of the TEEB Study complemented the third Global Biodiversity Outlook in helping to advance biodiversity policy and response beyond 2010, and to:
  • Integrate ecological and economic knowledge to structure the evaluation of ecosystem services under different scenarios.
  • Recommend appropriate valuation methodologies for different contexts
  • Examine the economic costs of biodiversity decline and the costs and benefits of actions to reduce these losses
  • Develop guidance for policy makers at international, regional and local levels in order to foster sustainable development and better conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Enable easy access to leading information and tools for improved biodiversity practice for the business community – from the perspective of managing risks, addressing opportunities, and measuring impacts
  • Raise public awareness of the individual’s impact on biodiversity and ecosystems, and areas where individual action can make a positive difference

Some of the compelling and catalyzing facts include:
  • Annual losses as a result of deforestation and forest degradation alone may equate to losses of US$2 trillion to over US$4.5 trillion alone. These could be secured by an annual investment of just US$45 billion: a 100 to 1 return. Many countries are beginning to factor natural capital into some areas of economic and social life with important returns, but this needs rapid and sustained scaling-up.
  • In Venezuela, investment in the national protected area system is preventing sedimentation that otherwise could reduce farm earnings by around US$3.5 million a year.
  • Planting and protecting nearly 12,000 hectares of mangroves in Viet Nam costs just over US$1 million but saved annual expenditures on dyke maintenance of well over US$7 million.

Mainstreaming the economics of biodiversity and the multi-trillion dollar services of the ecosystems which it supports into development and decision-making can make the period after 2010 a success.

In September 2009, the TEEB Climate Change Issues Update showed that examining the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services not only enhances the case for strong international action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but also highlights the inherent value for money in investing in natural capital to help both climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The reports prepared under TEEB Phase II are underpinned by a volume on the ecological and economic foundations of TEEB.

The final reports were presented at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties ot the Convention, in October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, and are available at: www.teebweb.org.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme