Germany’s contribution

Developing new approaches

Farmer in a wheat field in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Although humans depend on the goods and services nature provides, in most cases neither pricing nor marketplaces exist for these goods and services. The apparent lack of tangible value for nature’s services has contributed to the serious threat now facing biodiversity.

Germany is therefore engaged in advocating for improved valuation of biodiversity and is pursuing new approaches to that end. Through the German Environment Ministry, Germany initiated and co-funded a study which was well received internationally on the economic valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, TEEB).

An international initiative has now emerged from this study. The aim of the initiative is to contribute to the development of a new economic philosophy under which the value of ecosystem services is taken into account in political and economic decision-making.

Key policy decisions

Key decisions in this regard were reached in 2012 at the Rio+20 conference. In its final declaration, the international community acknowledged for the first time the idea of the Green Economy, which takes into consideration the interaction between the economy, society and the environment. Explicit reference is made in the declaration to the "ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic" values of biological diversity.

Biodiversity was also integrated firmly and visibly into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goals 14 and 15 are dedicated to the preservation of biodiversity on land and below water, and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Mechanisms for a more equitable distribution of costs

Several mechanisms aimed at ensuring that the costs of ecosystem conservation are more fairly distributed have been developed in recent years. In practice, there are now many examples of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES). For instance, at local level, income from eco-tourism benefits local residents, and water users pay farmers in their catchment areas for water-conserving farming techniques.

Funding can also be given for ecosystem services of trans-national significance. These might include the conservation of habitats for migratory birds or the avoidance of carbon emissions via REDD programmes.

Another mechanism, this time based on the "polluter pays" principle, is that of offsetting. This involves companies making payments and providing services. For example, they may make compensatory offset payments if large-scale projects cause biodiversity loss. Or, they have to purchase certificates if their carbon dioxide output exceeds the emissions allowance. Environmental taxes can also promote the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

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