Global Public Sector Trends in Ecosystem Services, 2009-2012

Ecosystem services are gaining the attention of government officials around the world. From 2009  through 2012, BSR has documented a wide and growing range of public-sector activities related to  the issue. Given the breadth and growing depth of public sector work on ecosystem services, it is  increasingly clear that it now has the potential to shape future policy and regulations as well as  government expectations of the private sector, particularly on public lands.  

For businesses, the questions about this emerging domain are many and include where, how, and on what  time frame ecosystem services may gain traction in specific governments around the world. This work  is linked with the growing efforts on natural capital and integrating monetary value, along with more  traditional measures, into gross domestic product (GDP). The potential implications are numerous and  could ultimately include transferring the costs of using ecosystem services to beneficiaries and user  groups, including the private sector.  

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Strengthening Global Climate Change Negotiations: Improving the Efficiency of the UNFCCC Process

This paper explores possibilities to strengthen the global climate change negotiations by improving the efficiency of the negotiations process under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The negotiations are taking place against the backdrop of continuing growth of global greenhouse gas emissions and already observable impacts of climate change. Given the urgent and multifaceted nature of the climate change problem, the expanding international climate policy agenda and the various new institutions and processes created under the UNFCCC in recent years, the efficiency of the negotiations process is an important challenge.

This working paper was commissioned by the Nordic Working Group for Global Climate Negotiations (NOAK) to serve as a discussion paper for a workshop “Strengthening the Global Climate Change Negotiations” that took place at the Nordic Council of Ministers in Copenhagen, Denmark, in April 2012. The paper was subsequently updated to reflect discussions at the workshop on the basis of the Chatham House rule. It aims to address the state-of-play in the UNFCCC negotiations, identify some of the main problems and develop concrete proposals to enhance the effectiveness of the climate regime. In doing so, the paper focuses on three main clusters of procedural issues: organization of the work; institutions exercising oversight of the negotiation process; and the decision-making of the COP. Inputs from outside the regime are also briefly addressed. The paper does not intend to give mature suggestions on the way forward, but rather, it seeks to identify issues and themes concerning the efficiency of the UNFCCC negotiations for further discussion.

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Top-Down, Bottom-Up or In-Between: How Can a UNFCCC Framework for Market-Based Approaches Ensure Environmental Integrity and Market Coherence?

The Durban Climate Conference agreed on the creation of a new market-based mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and to consider the establishment of an overall framework for various mitigation approaches, including opportunities for using markets (“Framework”). This development is taking place against the background of increasing numbers of parties developing market mechanisms outside the UNFCCC. The creation of such a Framework is therefore of high political significance, as it should ensure on the one hand that new market-based mechanisms contribute to global climate change mitigation and to achievement of targets and on the other hand that different market-based approaches can be integrated in a global carbon market. As yet there is little clarity as to the roles and design of such a framework. This paper contributes to the debate by discussing and evaluating inter alia several design options, and explores how the various options could be implemented and how they interrelate. The paper concludes that a strong central oversight at the level of the UNFCCC is probably the only option that could reassure the vast majority of UNFCCC Parties that the environmental integrity of new market-based mechanisms is in fact ensured. This does, however, not exclude that some reasonable balance may be struck between centralisation and flexibility

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Global Climate Leadership Review 2012

Australia does not act on climate change in isolation. The Climate Institute’s Global Climate Leadership Review 2012 positions Australian climate policy in a global context. It aims to elaborate on the implications of global climate diplomacy and domestic actions for Australia.

The overarching theme of this flagship project is leadership. The Global Climate Leadership Review identifies which nations are currently leading the low carbon economy, who is leading the international negotiations and provides an annual case study of where Australia can show leadership.
Access the report here.

Governments Worldwide Embrace Voluntary Carbon Offset Market: Report

With the future of an international climate agreement still in flux, governments worldwide are turning to markets for voluntary carbon offsetting to engage private sector climate actors – and to inform or provide the tools that could shape tomorrow’s regulated carbon markets.

At least 21 such government programs are currently underway, and nine of these have emerged in the last four years, according to this study by Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace. The report provides case studies of the 13 most advanced programs in Bringing it Home: Taking Stock of Government Engagement with the Voluntary Carbon Market.

Ecosystem Service Market Development: The Role and Opportunity for Finance

Executive Summary
Intact ecosystems on rural lands provide critical services to residents of Oregon and other regions. These services include but are not limited to regulation of climate through carbon sequestration, provision of clean freshwater for cities and towns, support of fisheries that sustain us, and preservation of intact, wild landscapes of great spiritual and recreational value. Historically, these services have been available for free as landowners do not receive payments for the value they provide through sustainable management. Typically, they were noticed only when reduced or eliminated. Perceiving their loss as a failure of a market economy to provide for the common good, environmental economists advocated for payments for ecosystem services as a way to align economic incentives with land and water stewardship. The creation of tradable credits for the development or preservation of ecosystem services has emerged as a method to provide such payments. These credits are financial assets that can be sold to fund landowners’ investment in stewardship projects. Earning a financial return for good environmental stewardship of property holds the promise of simultaneously protecting the environment and providing economic opportunity in rural areas, thus supporting societal interests in rural sustainability.

Though markets for different types of ecosystem services credits vary, a paucity of transactions in the early stages of market development is a challenge. The extreme thinness of markets can be selfreinforcing, with few landowners willing to develop additional credits without strong prospects for a sale. The lack of supply of credits, in turn, leaves potential buyers discouraged. This broad chicken-and-egg dynamic has meant that the potential to harness credit markets to meet environmental goals has been largely unrealized. One potential obstacle to the emergence of markets for these credits is a lack of financing for projects seeking to develop ecosystem services and their credits (hereafter ES projects). The research effort described here seeks to develop innovative financial mechanisms and approaches to meet this need. This report presents findings from research including a theoretical inquiry, interviews with national and international leaders in ES finance, and the proceedings of a workshop entitled Enhancing Rural Sustainability: Financial Tools for Ecosystem Services Transactions…

The TEEB for Policy Makers Report – Summary document

This report demonstrates the value of ecosystems and biodiversity to the economy, to society and to individuals. It   underlines the urgency of action, as well as the benefits and opportunities that will arise as a result of taking such action. The report shows that the cost of sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services is lower than the cost of allowing biodiversity and ecosystem services to dwindle. It demonstrates how we can take into account the value of ecosystems and biodiversity in policy decisions and identify and support solutions, new instruments, and wider use of existing tool in order to pioneer a way forward. In so doing, the report addresses the needs of policy-makers and those in the policy-making process.

The TEEB Climate Issues update

This update from our TEEB study presents a sub-set of early conclusions which relate to climate change. A fuller report on these and several other areas of relevance to national and international policy-makers will be published in November 2009. However, in view of the climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009, we thought it appropriate to publish our climate-related conclusions and recommendations more urgently for policy-makers, negotiators, and the general public.

Factories or Forests? Bringing Ecosystem Service Markets Back to the Land

Investment in environmental markets including the carbon market has risen to 66 billion US-dollars (USD) within a decade. Yet so far these markets have widely disregarded land-use change and forestry projects. The Katoomba Ecosystems Services Incubator was created in 2007 to promote investment in forest-based carbon markets.

Rethinking Green Philanthropy

Environmental giving from private and public foundations misses the boat when it comes to systematically addressing the major problems we face in providing a catalyst to significant environmental restoration, protection, and generation of an environmentally friendly and sustainable human impact upon the earth. We offer Seven Rules for Re-making Environmental Philanthropy.

The Role for Sustainably Managed Forests in Climate Change Mitigation

This article addresses the Kyoto Protocol principles of additionality, permanence, and leakage, and challenges the way that these principles are being used to qualify forest offset projects as climate change mitigation measures. Policy initiatives are proposed for challenging policymakers and the forestry community to rethink sustainably managed forest offset project rules as the United States considers GHG emission reduction legislation.

A Green Thumb for the Invisible Hand

This is a brief overview about the changing political and economic climate on climate change in the US. It includes an analysis on issues related to carbon trading and its role in influencing policy.

Economic benefits of biodiversity exceed costs of conservation at an African rainforest reserve

This paper quantifies the costs and benefits of avian biodiversity at a rainforest reserve in Uganda through a combination of economic surveys of tourists, spatial land-use analyses, and species-area relationships. The paper argues that although conventional wisdom suggests that biodiversity conservation is often a noncompetitive form of land use and, therefore, requires subsidising, the authors' results suggest that the economic benefits derived from avian biodiversity could protect 80-90 percent of a tropical forest reserve's bird species.

In particular, the paper finds that: 1) the tangible economic demand of tourists for increasing levels of biodiversity is strong evidence that consumers may actually prefer higher numbers of species to lower numbers and, more critically, be willing to pay for it, 2) revising entrance fees and redistributing ecotourism revenues would protect 114 of 143 forest bird species (80 percent) under current market conditions, 3) this total would increase to 131 species (90 percent) if entrance fees were optimised to capture the tourist's willingness to pay for forest visits and the chance of seeing increased numbers of bird species, and 4) in contrast, the cost of purchasing agricultural land for ecological rehabilitation of the avian habitat would be economically prohibitive.

Altogether the result of the paper show that areas rich in biodiversity may be able to charge more for visitation rights than less diverse areas and, hence, may provide a mechanism for funding conservation of highly speciose ecosystems. The results also suggest that local biodiversity markets could play a positive role in tropical conservation strategies if the appropriate institutions for redistribution can be developed.

Let's Make a Deal: Draft PA nutrient policy would let wastewater plants, farmers trade credits

This Bay Journal focuses on water quality trading in the Conestoga River Watershed and the reverse auction held by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. The trades used Nutrientnet to estimate load reductions and determine the most competitive bidders. This initial auction is meant to seed future transactions with waste water treatment plants buying credits from farmers.

Struggle Over (Green) Gold Rush

Bioprospectors head into the deepest parts of the jungle, scale the highest mountains and, generally, brave extreme conditions in their quest for "green gold" — plants and animals with commercially valuable properties. With the Amazon alone harboring medicinal plants capable of treating anything from parasite infections to malaria, toothaches to diabetes, the potential rewards are astronomical. But who will reap them?

No, Air, Don't Sell Yourself

This document argues that 'environmental services' (also known as ecosystem services) provide the means of taking privatisation to a new level – a means of privatising many things that have as-yet been unavailable for privatisation: air, water and all sorts of other ecological processes. This document asks: what has been undertaken so far in the name of environmental services, and what are the implications of turning such basic elements into commodities?

The concept of environmental services has become popular over the last decade and, the authors argue, has crept into our collective consciousness without setting off the alarm bells it should have done. Originally coined by economists the term now appears frequently in documents, including a legal and institutional framework, produced by governments, the World Bank and other international bodies, universities and business associations. It has also been adopted in the vocabularies of development agencies, NGOs and social organisations.

This document arguies that one of the most urgent tasks is to take the veil off the economic objective and the ideological underpinnings of environmental services.

Conservation They Can Bank On

Dove Ridge conservation bank aims to preserve its wealth of vernal pools and the endangered fairy shrimp that inhabit them.

Crunch Time for Water Quality Trading

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has invested in dozens of water quality trading pilot programs to establish trading rules and governing bodies to assist industrial and municipal waste water dischargers in meeting ever more expensive pollutant reduction goals. In this article Dennis King outlines why a lack of supply and demand is at the core of the anemic water quality trading markets in the United States and how policy makers model the markets on assumptions that do not match the micro-economic reality of market participants. He also articulates what must be done if water quality trading is to succeed before policy makers loose their enthusiasm for this potentially viable pollution control tool.

Diminishing Biodiverse Returns

The article presents a skeptial view of the premise of the Third Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Asset and Benefit Sharing of the Convention on Biodiversity.

International governance of biodiversity: involving all the users of genetic resources

This paper analyses the extent to which greater involvement by users makes it possible to enlarge the discussion on international governance of access and benefit sharing. The paper explores three areas where this taking on of responsibility can be carried out, namely, technology transfer, disclosure of origin, and access to justice in case of disagreement.