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Accounting for the Values of Ecosystems can Play Key Role in Efforts to Achieve International Biodiversity Targets

Hyderabad (India), 11 October 2012 - Assessing and taking into account the economic, social and cultural value of ecosystems and biodiversity can play a key role in efforts to achieve international biodiversity targets, according to a new series of guides published by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) today.

The publications were launched during the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, India.

The TEEB guides, developed by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ on behalf of the German Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN),  focus specifically on three of the co-called 'Aichi Targets'; a set of 20 biodiversity goals agreed by governments under the CBD in 2010.    

They are: the integration of biodiversity values into strategies for development and poverty reduction, planning processes and national accounting (Aichi Target 2), reforming subsidies harmful to biodiversity and promotion of incentives for conservation and sustainable use  of biodiversity (Aichi Target 3), increasing the amount and effectively managing land, inland waters and ocean covered by protected areas (Aichi Target 11).

The guides provide practical support for national governments, regional policy-makers, and other groups in making use of the findings of TEEB to support efforts to achieve the Aichi targets by 2020. 

TEEB, which is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has been gaining international recognition since the launch of the initiative's first major report in 2009. The study was among the first to outline in detail the high economic value of ecosystems including forests, freshwater, soils and coral reefs - as well as the social and economic costs of their loss.

Since then, India, Brazil and Georgia as well as several European countries have initiated, or expressed interest in conducting national TEEB studies to support decision making on the environment. China also recently voiced support for a national study on the economic importance of ecosystem services.

"Understanding the values of ecosystems to economies and communities can support countries in spearheading the actions and policies needed to meet biodiversity targets, and to enable the transition to an inclusive green economy," said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"Importantly, the new TEEB guides highlight that valuation is not an end in itself, but that it allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the world's natural assets, and ensures they are afforded due consideration by policy-makers and integrated into decision-making on all levels", added Mr. Steiner.

The new guides summarize key findings and recommendations from major TEEB studies relating to the Aichi targets, as well as case studies, lessons learned and links to other studies and relevant publications.  

"We were amazed how many useful tools and information is already out there on the economic aspects of biodiversity conservation, within the TEEB reports and beyond," said Julian Rode from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and co-author of the guides

"The Implementation Guides offer a "menu" of tools and advice for three of the Aichi targets - now it is up to policy makers to choose what is best suited for their national context," he added.

Biodiversity and National Planning

In line with Aichi Target 2 , the guide encourages recognizing the multiple values of biodiversity for human well-being and their incorporation into decision-making at all levels.

The dependence on poor households on ecosystem services in particular needs to be more fully integrated into policy, says the TEEB guide. Non-marketed natural goods can account up to 89 per cent of the so-called 'GDP of the Poor' in some countries.

The guide recommends the following actions and milestones towards achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 2:

  • As a starting point, countries can showcase the values of 'flagship' ecosystems
  • Cooperation with national statistics offices should be strengthened
  • Improved mapping of biodiversity and ecosystem services is needed to support planning exercises
  • Increased coordination among government ministries and different levels of government can ensure biodiversity is integrated in planning across all sectors


Subsidies and Incentives

Subsidies are used across the world as a tool for economic development. However, certain subsidies can be harmful to the environment and cause significant economic burdens.

Fishery subsidies, it is often argued, can serve to provide incentives for over-fishing. Around US$ 50 billion in annual revenue is lost due to unsustainable fishing practices, mostly due to over-fishing.

As a first step towards achieving Aichi Target 3 , says the TEEB guide, governments should aim for full disclosure of subsidies, measuring and reporting them annually in order that harmful components may be recognize, tracked and eventually phased out.

Payment for ecosystem services, access and benefit sharing, green public procurement and certification and labeling schemes are among the incentive measures explored in the TEEB guide, along with numerous case studies, including schemes from Sri Lanka, India, Ghana and Denmark.

The guide recommends the following actions towards achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 3:

  • Governments should identify those incentives which are particularly detrimental to biodiversity and economically costly, and prioritize these for removal, phasing out, or reform
  • When developing positive incentives, it is important to interact with stakeholders to ensure that mechanism are effective and continue to support livelihoods


Biodiversity and Protected Areas

In line with Aichi Target 11 , TEEB illustrates that local protected areas are an important resource for policy-makers and benefit local communities if managed effectively.

It is often not recognized that protected areas also offer "value for money", says TEEB, and can play a key role in maintaining ecosystem services. Ecosystem valuation, in turn, can help to justify protected areas policy, identify funding an investment opportunities, and inform conservation priorities.

The TEEB guide cites a case study from Namibia, where conservancies and other tourism sites on communal land cover 14 per cent of national territory. The national benefit from tourism (over US$ 335 million) is over eight times higher than the management costs.

Currently, some 13 per cent of terrestrial areas and around 6 per cent of coastal areas are protected, while very little of the open oceans are protected. Some countries have already surpassed the coverage targets contained in Aichi Target 11, and are now focusing on improving the management and effectives of protected areas.  

Recommended actions in the TEEB guide towards achieving all aspects of Aichi Target 11 include:

  • Recognition of indigenous and community-conserved areas in national legislation or other means of formal inclusion in national systems
  • Development and implementation of finance plans for protected area systems
  • Aim to assess 60 per cent of protected areas for management effectiveness and ensure that the results of the assessments are implemented


The TEEB Implementation Guides for Aichi Biodiversity Targets 2, 3 and 11 are available at: www.teebweb.org/

Notes to Editors

About the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

UFZ was established in 1991 to study the complex interactions between humans and the environment in cultivated and damaged landscapes. The scientists develop concepts and processes to help secure the natural foundations of human life for future generations. For more information, please visit: www.ufz.de

For more information, please contact:

Bryan Coll, UNEP Newsdesk (in Hyderabad) on Tel. +254731666214 or E-mail: bryan.coll@unep.org / unepnewsdesk@unep.org

Anita Beck, TEEB Communications Officer (Geneva) on Tel. +41 22 917 8763, E-mail: anita.beck@unep.org

Aichi Biodiversity Target 2: By 2020, at the latest, biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are being incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems.

Aichi Biodiversity Target 3: By 2020 at the latest, incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity are eliminated, phased out or reformed in order to minimize or avoid negative impacts, and positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are developed and applied, consistent and in harmony with the Convention and other relevant international obligations, taking into account national socio-economic conditions.

Aichi Biodiversity Target 11: By 2020, at least 17 % of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 % of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective are-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.

Photo credit: Peter Prokosch/Grid-Arendal



Further Resources

TEEB Implementation Guides

UNEP and Ecosystem Management

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

Towards a Green Economy. Pathways to sustainable and poverty eradication


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