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Ecosystem Services Economics


UNEP’s work on Ecosystem Services Economics (ESE) aims to support its effort in building capacity of stakeholders to generate scientifically credible information required for integrating an ecosystem service approach into national economic and development frameworks. The ESE work is geared towards developing a knowledge base as well as promoting understanding on how ecosystems and services they provide relate to human well-being and development. The three main areas of focus are:

  1. Economic Valuation and Natural Wealth
  2. Equity in Ecosystem Management
  3. Disaster Risk Management

UNEP’s work on ESE is in line with the global strategy for the follow-up to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) of 2005. The MA follow-up was developed by a group of interested partner organisations to address the remaining challenges highlighted by independent evaluations of the MA.

Economic Valuation and Natural Wealth  

World Wealth Report

UNDP-Spain MDG Achievement Project (Senegal)

UN Development Account Project (Lao PDR and Southern Sudan)

In 2005 the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) highlighted that ecosystems offer a wide range of services that significantly contribute to human well-being. Decisions concerning the use of ecosystems and their services should acknowledge the multiplicity of their values and should be consistent with their conservation.
Changes in ecosystem service abundance observed through constant monitoring should also be reflected on the accounts of natural wealth of a country or region. With this in mind, policymakers can design adequate intervention strategies towards reducing and reversing the current decline of ecosystem services.
Conventional macroeconomic performance indicators do not effectively capture the dynamic nature of ecosystem services and consequently fall short in providing an adequate and complete picture of a country’s natural wealth. Given that ecosystems and their services are an integral component of national wealth, macroeconomic indicators should incorporate and track their status and reflect upon their values.

Ecotaxation Project in Senegal          

Disaster Risk Management            
This stream of work explores the potential of ecosystems to contribute to disaster risk management (DRM), focusing on connecting DRM to the ecosystem services concept. ESE is developing a portfolio of activities in this field, collaborating with various partners.
In collaboration with ISDR, a paper on environmental management and the ecosystem services approach for disaster risk management was developed as an input to the ISDR Global Assessment Report (GAR) on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) that will be published in 2009.


Ecosystem Services Economics - Working Papers:

UNEP’s work on Ecosystem Services and Economics (ESE) aims to support its effort in building capacity of stakeholders to generate scientifically credible information required for integrating an ecosystem service approach into national economic and development frameworks.

Download working papers on the ecosystem services economics

Revisiting the Relationship Between Equity and Efficiency in Payments for Environmental Services

Equity in Ecosystem Management            
In the management of ecosystems, important questions of equity and justice emerge. This is often due to the separation of those who gain the benefits and those who bear the costs and risks of managing ecosystems. Recently this aspect has become increasingly important, particularly since ecosystems are now better understood as globally inter-related.
The process of imposing restrictions on the use of a resource or ecosystem for its conservation can have severe distributional consequences, especially when those who have long exercised stewardship over a resource are now excluded from its use.
The role of institutions in facilitating and influencing people’s access to ecosystem services is critical for addressing these distributional issues, ensuring that ecosystems are managed in a fair and equitable manner to all involved stakeholders.
Mechanisms such as Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) are considered to be more efficient than the traditional command and control mechanisms of conservation. However, PES do not necessarily incorporate equity issues, possibly even accentuating poverty and equity gaps by putting a cost-effective price to previously low priced or free services.
For that reason there is a pressing need to ensure that the aspect of equity is considered when implementing PES so that these mechanisms at the minimum are equity neutral and do not cause individuals or groups to experience a drop in their well-being through reduced or lost access to an ecosystem service.
While there are many organizations and initiatives working on mechanisms such as PES, there are very few who address the equity issue of these mechanisms. As such, equity is the primary focus of this stream of work.

Setting the pace: science-policy interface for biodiversity
UNEP is leading the follow up to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) to facilitate the implementation of the MA findings and recommendations. In line with the global strategy on MA follow-up, UNEP is implementing a Swedbio-funded project designed to respond to the objectives of building and maintaining the knowledge base on the links between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services and human well-being; Strengthening country capacity to  operationalize methods and tools for integrating the MA approach and its findings and recommendations in national development planning and policy; Disseminating the findings of the MA and its conceptual framework, tools and methodologies to relevant stakeholders 

In parallel, UNEP is leading a global initiative to strengthen the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services. It is well recognized among the scientific and policy community that the various present science-policy interfaces are not working as efficiently they should. The scientific and policy community requested UNEP to facilitate an intergovernmental process to explore the options available for strengthening the science-policy interface including the possibility of establishing a new mechanism 
The first meeting organized by UNEP and hosted by the Government of Malaysia was held at Putrajaya (10 - 12 November 2008) in which 78 countries and 28 organisations participated The ad hoc intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder meeting on an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) focused on finding efficient ways to improve the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services. This will provide for the first time a common science platform to facilitate better policy uptake of assessment findings and recommendations by member states It will also support building capacity of developing  countries to undertake scientifically credible and robust  studies on biodiversity and ecosystem services.