|Provisioning||Capture fisheries |
|Regulating||Air quality regulation |
Regional and local climate regulation
Natural hazard regulation
|Water regulation (for example, flood protection) |
|Cultural||Spiritual and religious values |
|Recreation and ecotourism|
From Restoring Nature’s Capital: An Action Agenda to Sustain Ecosystem Services, WRI, 2007.
“We must urgently expand the climate debate beyond reducing greenhouse gases to focus on how climate change is altering ecosystem services,” said Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, this morning at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The occasion was the release of WRI’s report, Restoring Nature’s Capital: An Action Agenda to Sustain Ecosystem Services.
Lash added, “Lima in Peru, for example, is entirely dependent on water from glacial melt. The glaciers will be gone in 20 years. Their options range from energy intensive desalination to a pipeline to the Amazon River - also threatened by climate change. Such decisions have huge implications for people and ecosystems.”
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), conducted in 2005 by the United Nations, including UNEP, the World Resources Institute, and 1,300 Assessment participants, found the extent to which economies depend on the capital lying within nature’s lands, waters, forests, and reefs. Restoring Nature’s Capital presents the results of the earliest concerted thinking about how to address both the stark realities and the enormous potential uncovered by the Assessment.
Achim Steiner, in his first major address to a U.S. audience since becoming executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme last summer, said, “The MA put the plight of the planet’s ecosystems firmly on the world’s radar - 15 of the 24 ecosystem services are being degraded or used unsustainably. It also gave the world a glimpse into the economic costs accruing from over-extracting this nature-based or natural capital.
“But there is also cause for optimism. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that the costs of acting to decarbonize our economies will be far less – some 3 percent of global GDP, and less if wider benefits are factored in – than the costs of inaction. If the world can act on climate change, it can act on the equally important issue of ecosystems. We have enough knowledge, market mechanisms, and creative fiscal incentives to make a start. We now need the courage and intelligence to act,” Steiner added.
Humans have frequently treated many natural assets as if they have no value. In fact, economists have been preoccupied with a narrow set of economic indicators, such as gross domestic product, disposable income, and purchasing power parity. Many of nature’s services are not included in national accounts and forecasts.
The lead authors, WRI’s Frances Irwin and Janet Ranganathan, contend that nature’s benefits - both economic and social - could sustain many generations to come if businesses, governments, and civil society pursue the action agenda, which calls for an increase in the availability of information on ecosystem services and a redressing of the balance in favor of local rights to resources and local voices in decision making. It also calls for managing decisions across levels - local, regional, national, and international - and increasing the use of accountability mechanisms and economic and financial incentives.
Ranganathan said, “The way forward requires rewiring the institutions of governance - making new connections to understand and find solutions to solve the complex interlinked challenges of ecosystem degradation. One thing is abundantly clear: ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option. The time has come to stop operating Planet Earth Ltd. solely for the purpose of making a few shareholders rich in the short term, and instead manage it as a family trust fund, set up for the benefit of today’s and tomorrow’s children.”
Restoring Nature’s Capital draws on the recommendations of its 17 contributing authors from around the world: Mark Bateman, IW Financial, USA; Robert Goodland, World Bank Group, retired; Anthony Janetos, Joint Global Change Research Institute, USA: David Jhirad, World Resources Institute; Karin Krchnak, The Nature Conservancy; Antonio La Vina, Ateneo School of Government, Ateneo de Manila University, The Philippines; Lailai Li, Institute for Environment and Development/LEAD, China; Nicolas Lucas, Centro Fueguino para el Desarrollo Sustentable, Argentina); Iokine Rodriguez, Venezuela; Hernan Dario Correa, Colombia; Mohan Munasinghe, Munasinghe Institute for Development, Sri Lanka; Richard Nordgaard, University of California, Berkeley; Sudhir Chella Rajan, Tellus Institute, USA; Guido Schmidt-Traub, U.N. Millennium Project; Albert Cho, McKinsey & Co.; and Frances Seymour, Center for International Forestry Research, Indonesia.
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