Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Eco-nomics: Brazil, India and Environmental Accounting

From the BBC:

The Brazilian and Indian governments are among those keen to use findings from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) project.

Nature's services must be counted if they are to be valued, its leader said.

Pavan Sukhdev, a Deutsche Bank capital markets expert who leads Teeb on secondment to the UN Environment Programme (Unep), said that if society did not properly account for services that nature provides, they would be lost.

In an earlier analysis, Teeb calculated that the economic value of services being lost - including water purification, pollination of crops and climate regulation - amounts to $2-5 trillion dollars per year, with the poor hardest hit.

And the first thing for governments to do, he said, was to carry out national equivalents of the global Teeb study - to analyse the real value of ecosystem services to their economies.

"Conventional methods of accounting such as GDP accounting will not capture them - so we need... to rapidly upgrade the system of national accounts," he said.

"You cannot manage what you do not measure."


Mr Sukhdev said that so far, 27 governments from Africa and Latin America, and one from Asia, had approached the Unep team for help in "greening" their economies.

Many of these are looking to translate the global Teeb findings findings into their national context, with Brazil and India in the vanguard.

Some governments give "huge subsidies" to oil and gas production, said Mr Sukhdev
India's Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, said his country was planning a national economic assessment along Teeb lines.

"We are committed to developing a framework for green national accounts that we can implement by 2015, and we are confident that the 'Teeb for India' study will be the key facilitator," he said.

And Braulio Dias, secretary for biodiversity and forests in Brazil's Environment Ministry, said his country was also looking to Teeb for a change of direction - in fact, without the pending election, it might be happening already.

"The tradition of many countries including Brazil has been one of utilising regulation - command and control instruments - and we need to work more on incentive measures and get the different sectors on board," he told BBC News.

"The Teeb approach is very useful to make them understand the implications of loss of biodiversity, and also the return on investment in terms of biodiversity conservation.

"We have several bills before the national congress to establish a national mechanism for payment for ecosystem services - if they're approved, I think we will have a better possibility of implement some of those economic measures."


Read the rest of the story at the BBC's website. But if this signals a change in the view of environmental protection and its realtionship to economic growth on the part of two of the fastest growing economies in the developing world, it is very good news. It is these types of countries - fast growing - industrial economies that pose the biggest threat to the earths climate in the 21st century.  That said, I am skeptical that this is much more than window dressing at the moment.

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