- The concept of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) is a cornerstone concept in ensuing development decisions don’t just favour economic or financial outcomes.
- We have well accepted means of valuing the ‘economic’ component of ESD, both at the big picture scale, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and at the small or project scale, such as financial viability.
- The fact that we don’t have an agreed ‘formula’ for valuing biodiversity, as we do for economic and financial accounting, most likely results in decisions that favour the measurable value (economic) over the unmeasurable value (biodiversity).
- But how do can we value biodiversity (a concept that includes nature, ecology, habitat and species)?
- There have been many by attempts research ecologists, natural resource economists and others to do this, either to integrate biodiversity into the GDP equation or at the development assessment level; but the fact is there is no one approach that has been taken up.
- This is strange given consideration of environmental impacts has been included in most development legislation for almost 50 years in some jurisdictions.
- Complications arise because of the ‘nature’ of nature itself.
- There is no real agreement on which component or combination of components of nature should be used in the value equation.
- Valuing nature can be considered at a species level (such as relative rarity), ecosystem level (such as intactness, or by type of ecological community), via the ecological services an area provides and other components.
- In the concept of valuing nature for ‘nature’s sake’ how can a value ‘index’ be crafted that can be reasonably compared the monetary index used in economic or financial valuations.
- Alternatively, is it OK to just value nature or its components in relation its usefulness or financial value to people?
- The following links provide a brief look into the work being done in the field of biodiversity valuation.
- Some of these try to measure the financial value of one or more environmental services (e.g. recreational fishing), others try to establish biodiversity valuation index not related to money or people (e.g. the ‘econd’), while others attempt to value a natural area in terms of its non-financial benefits to people.
United Nations – System of environmental – economic accounting: https://seea.un.org/
DAWE (Aust) – Environment – Economic Accounts: https://eea.environment.gov.au/
Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists – the ‘Econd’: https://wentworthgroup.org/programs/environmental-accounts/
Wikipedia - Ecological economics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_economics
European Forests Institute - Valuing Biological Diversity of Forests: https://efi.int/sites/default/files/files/publication-bank/2018/ir_04.pdf
OECD – Choice Modelling: https://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/publicdisplaydocumentpdf/?doclanguage=en&cote=env/epoc/geei/bio(2001)3/final
Ecosystem Valuation Group – contingent valuation: https://www.ecosystemvaluation.org/contingent_valuation.htm#over
Oregon State University – Intrinsic value of biodiversity: https://today.oregonstate.edu/archives/2015/feb/conservation-needs-recognize-nature%E2%80%99s-intrinsic-value-researchers-say
Healthy Parks Healthy People (Victoria):
Ecology Centre (USA) – Measuring the value of biodiversity: https://www.ecologycenter.us/natural-history-2/measuring-the-value-of-biodiversity.html