Economic Value of Ecosystems and Biodiversity — New Report

A new report, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), attempts to bring to the world’s attention the truly great economic value of ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as the benefits of taking these into account when making policies.


The value of the world’s natural ecosystems and biodiversity is something lacking in most economic analyses. Lack of value for what is truly priceless doesn’t just hurt the environment, however. It is also a sort of economic suicide. This new report, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme and supported by key EU, UK, German, Swedish, Dutch, and Norwegian bodies, attempts to bring all of this to our attention more and show some positive case studies of how taking the environment into consideration can actually save us money.

As the report says: “the failure of markets to adequately consider the value of ecosystem services is of concern not only to environment, development and climate change ministries but also to finance, economics and business ministries.”

In combination, we as a human race have ignored the worth of ecosystem services and biodiversity in our policies and development. However, in some cases, we have tried to take their value into account. The report shows some clear success stories that can result from policies taking the value of these things into account. It “builds on real examples from across the world that show how appreciating the value of biodiversity has led to policy changes, how investment in natural capital can be more cost-effective than man-made solutions and how conservation can deliver a range of economic advantages.”

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said today: “The findings of this TEEB report are clear: the failure to protect nature is often a consequence of our failure to understand its value. We must learn to value nature to protect it more effectively. Too often, nature is considered as having little if any economic relevance, but the truth is it sustains and underpins our economies and societies, and can offer effective protection against climate change.”

Similarly, TEEB Study leader Pavan Sukhdev said: “The economic invisibility of ecosystems and biodiversity is a major reason for their alarming loss, despite their tremendous economic value to society. Our stock of natural assets, or natural capital, is as important as man-made assets or physical capital. Recognising and rewarding the value of benefits flowing to society from natural capital must become a policy priority.”

One example of how protecting nature benefits human society is Scotland’s Natura 2000 network (part of a European-wide nature network). The public benefits here are estimated to be three times greater than the program’s costs.

In other analyses — of the financial benefits of conserving wild or extensively used habitats compared to converting them into intensively used agricultural or silvicultural landscapes in seven different countries (Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, and the Philippines) — the report found financial benefits of conserving the natural ecosystems were greater in all cases.

The report identifies four key worldwide challenges and opportunities regarding these topics as: 1) halting deforestation and forest degradation; 2) protecting tropical coral reefs; 3) saving and restoring global fisheries; and 4) recognizing “the deep link between ecosystem degradation and the persistence of rural poverty.” These are keys to creating a more balanced global economy and saving ourselves trillions of dollars in the future.

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Image Credit 5: Jayanth Sharma via flickr under a Creative Commons license

  • john olsson

    just wanted to inform you that Norway is not a EU country