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New TEEB For Regional Policy Makers Good for Everyone

Daniel Kandy

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Local and Regional Policy Makers is the most recent in a series of reports designed to help people incorporate the economic value of nature’s living ecosystems into our modern economy.

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06 October 2010 |   This report anticipated the challenge of writing for an audience of potential ecosystem service and environmental economics novices, including the usual relevant charts alongside clear – though often cartoonish – illustrations and icons. Not only does the report deal with potential gaps in knowledge, it makes sure to identify the different tools, methodologies, and policy recommendations that are most applicable to those who act at the local level. In particular, the report hammers home the message that the poor are often the most dependent on ecosystem services, and that preserving those services is beneficial for both the environmental and development causes.

The compelling preface, penned by TEEB Study Leader Pavan Suhkdev, expresses his view that unlike financial capital, which local policy makers always consider, natural capital often receives little or no attention in the decision making process. TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers, more than any previous TEEB report, informs its audience of the value of ecosystem services in specific contexts and how to think about incorporating those values into the decision making process.

The report explores policy options “that are typically the responsibility of decision makers at sub-national levels,” such as land use or service provisioning. And the authors offer a compelling reason for those involved in local policy to think about the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity: “Considering ecosystem services in policy making can save on future municipal costs, boost local economies, enhance quality of life and secure livelihoods.”

With a report of about 180 pages, few decision makers or policy officials are likely to read through the whole thing, but the last page of the executive summary graciously points out who should read what: chapters two and three show how ecosystem services can be assessed and valued, and serve as a good primer for anyone interested in the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity; chapters four through nine, which cover local decision making in planning, management, and assessing ecosystem services, should be read by those who work for a local authority or are a member of city council. Chapter six deals with how ecosystem services can be thought of within the framework of spatial planning, and will be most relevant to planners. Chapter 10, which focuses on the challenges in implementing programs and policy and most of the practical aspects of valuing ecosystems, is also broadly applicable.

From the get-go, the report makes it clear that it doesn’t actually advocate for a market-based system for ecosystem services, but it does cover payments for ecosystem services (PES) and conservation banking (CB) in chapter eight. It covers the basics and why PES schemes are relevant to local policy makers – while the schemes are likely to be initiated on the state or national level, the potential for revenue and employment locally are an obvious incentive to embrace PES schemes. It addresses broad concerns about payments (who gets what) as well as the more practical considerations, such as tenure rights and monitoring compliance. And although the report emphasizes biodiversity and ecosystem markets, it could be helpful for those getting started in REDD or carbon markets.

If markets are to work as a force for biodiversity conservation, the mechanics of those markets have to be understood by everyone involved, including policy makers who might not be students of environmental studies or economics. Do acronyms make you dizzy? Do you want something in between ecosystem services 101 and environmental economics 401? TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers might be for you.

Daniel Kandy is a research fellow at Ecosystem Marketplace, focusing on Forest Carbon and Biodiversity markets. He recently graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in anthropology, focusing on land use and agriculture.  He can be reached at dkandy@ecosystemmarketplace.com

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