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[A synthesis of approaches to assess and value ecosystem services in the EU in the context of TEEB

Authors: Roy Brouwer, Luke Brander, Onno Kuik, Elissaios Papyrakis and Ian Bateman, UV University Amsterdam, Institute for Environmental Studies, 15 May 2013

Miércoles 15 de enero de 2014, por Carlos San Juan

This report is designed to provide guidance on the available options and choices for conducting ecosystem services valuation and accounting, with the intention to support EU Member States in addressing Target 2, Action 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy1 , that is, to map and assess the state of ecosystems and their services in the national territories of EU Member States by 2014, assess the economic value of such services, and promote the integration of these values into accounting and reporting systems at EU and national level by 2020.

 The report takes stock of existing national and international initiatives related to The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), their main objectives and focus, progress, lessons learned, key issues, and future research priorities. Besides screening reports, proceedings from workshops and websites, representatives from 15 European Member States were contacted by telephone. In addition, opinions on progress, lessons learned and future research needs from close to 50 international experts and practitioners were elicited via two web-based surveys.

 One of the main findings is that there does not exist one single, standard “TEEB” method or approach. Most efforts focus on the mapping of ecosystem services. Hardly any initiative has (yet) been able to integrate ecosystem services assessment and mapping into valuation and accounting. There exists a wide variety of approaches in practice at different geographical and temporal scales, which are only partly related to ongoing efforts at European level to harmonize the classification of ecosystem services, their assessment and reporting, such as the work by the Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES) working group or the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES).

 The report outlines a conceptual framework for the assessment of ecosystem services, drawing on the results of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA), the European Environment Agency (EEA) Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES), the Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES) working group, and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Experimental Ecosystem Accounts. In applying the conceptual framework for ecosystem service assessments, there are a number of choices to be made between classifications, methods and approaches. The report outlines these choices and describes the strengths and weaknesses of each alternative option. Recommendations are presented in this way to allow Member States to choose the information and methods that are of highest relevance to them.

 Choices are organised in a multi-level ‘decision tree’. Choice level 1 involves defining what the purpose of the ecosystem services valuation and accounting exercise is; choice level 2 determines which ecosystem services are of highest relevance; choice level 3 defines the types of value information that are required; and choice level 4 selects the relevant and appropriate valuation methods.

 In order to harmonize efforts between EU Member States, especially to work towards a common reporting format by 2020, the existing frameworks at European level such as the CICES and the MAES framework and the SEEA experimental accounts need further integration and implementation. The step forwards in Europe would be to allow existing frameworks to be tested, monitor outcomes regularly along the way, and refine the existing frameworks based on actual empirical experiences, data and information.  The CICES classification and the MAES guidance document will be instrumental in providing an appropriate and consistent framework for this at pan-European level, and allow for comparisons between Member States.

 Key to the successful integration of ecosystem services in existing, modified or new accounting or reporting formats is to (1) establish reliable, scientific links between the biophysical provision of ecosystem services and their economic values, and (2) take into consideration the existence of extensively tested guidelines for environmental accounting over the past decades by statistical offices in order to create and maintain a consistent and coherent System of National Accounts (SNA).

 In order to keep the core SNA intact and modifications traceable, a careful, stepwise approach combining biophysical satellite accounts and separating out clearly defined ecosystem services inside the core SNA is advocated based on the outcomes of the monitoring and implementation path outlined above. Existing integrated frameworks such as the National Accounting Matrix including Environmental Accounts developed and applied in statistical offices across different EU Member States in the 1990s could serve as a reference example for this. Full integration of the economic value of stocks of natural capital and flows of ecosystem services, including those already included in the financial exchange value underlying GDP, based on natural capital accounts in the SNA to ‘go beyond GDP’ will require general consensus on appropriate measurement units and valuation approaches and closer collaboration with and between statistical offices.

Full text: A synthesis of approaches to assess and value ecosystem services in the EU in the context of TEEB

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