04/08 Briefing paper - ecosystem services
It is now generally agreed that each ecosystem provides services for the benefit of humanity, but they have, up till now, been undervalued and largely overlooked. Forest ecosystems, for example, provide the services of carbon sequestration and climate regulation, fresh water, wood, wildlife habitat, spiritual and recreational services to name only a few. Yet it is generally only the wood that is paid for when the trees are cut down.
Each ecosystem provides different services and while it’s easy to identify what they are, it’s less easy to work out how they should be priced and who is going to pay for them and how.
The Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol would also require such a baseline – should forests and other ecosystems be included within its remit. The first commitment period excluded forest conservation from the CDM for a variety of political, practical and ethical reasons. However, because carbon emissions from deforestation represent 18-25% of all emissions, there is pressure now to bring forests into the CDM for the second commitment period (from 2013).
Markets for various ecosystem services have started to emerge over the past few years. Some examples are featured in these pages.
Download the briefing document here