Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TEEB reports review: an interim report

TEEB stands for The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity. This is an international effort to produce an equivalent of the Stern report on climate change economics. In fact it is a series of reports that will "sharpen awareness of the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services and facilitate the development of cost-effective policy responses".

These reports were just released last week during a major UN conference on biodiversity. I took a quick look at the various reports at the project website and found quite a few jewels. So I am going to read them in the near future and write short reviews, and this is the first one on the interim report that drew most media attention so far (download "The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity").

It feels like this 60 pages report was written as a summary for other much bulkier reports. I guess in this sense it functions as a short communication for the TEEB effort. Major new ideas I found are :

1. It mentioned "ethics" a lot which you don't normally see in a conventional economic report. Of course this is nothing new for ecological economists but for sure you don't see it often in a monetary valuation paper.
2. It emphasized the role of risk and uncertainty and they are planning to move beyond using discounting rate as the only solution to uncertainty.
3. It acknowledged the limitation of monetary valuation (figure 3.2).
4. A couple of minor ideas: "GDP of the poor (Box 3.4)" and "option for biodiversity (Table 3.1)"

In general it is well written and has a tone of ecological economics. It didn't mention ecological economics at all though "ecosystem economics" was used in the executive summary. A couple of things I don't like:

1. The misuse of the word biodiversity. It is common to use "biodiversity" and "biological resources" in an exchangeable manner when talking about economics of biodiversity. The two are in fact different because the former means "how many + how different" (as defined in this report) and the latter also includes "who/what they are". A valuation study on keystone species per se, for instance, is not a biodiversity economics study.

2. The valuation framework they proposed (Figure 3.4). Everything makes perfect sense but it does look intimidatingly complex.

No comments: