Earth Debates

1st Earth Debate: Ecosystem economics – can we put a price on nature? 

Until recently the hidden natural services supplied by the environment (such as providing clean air and water, or pollinating our crops) have had no market value and have been taken freely. 

ecosystem-economics-green-logo_105202_2The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project has transformed the way nature is valued, and the costs of its loss. For example, if we didn’t have bees and other pollinating insects to pollinate our crops, the true cost for this service is estimated to be 153 billion Euros every year, representing 9.5% of world agricultural output in 2005. 

Tools for calculating some of these natural services are now being developed and are already influencing global environmental policy. What are the strengths of this emerging understanding and what are the risks? To what extent will the new economics of ecosystem services change our attitudes towards sustainable development.

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