TEEB Impact Study - Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services

05 May 2020

Decades of research has shown that the invisibility and lack of value of ecosystem services and biodiversity in our economies has resulted in economic and social degradation. The significant contributions of ecosystem services to the wellbeing of humans, and the rest of nature, should be at the core of the fundamental change needed in economic theory and practice if we are to achieve the transformation laid out by the Global Agenda 2030. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) is a global initiative that is focused on this fundamental change. Its main objective is to mainstream the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services into decision-making at all levels. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been at the forefront of this work since 2007 when the G8+5 Environment Ministers meeting in Potsdam called for a global study on the “economic significance of the global loss of biological diversity” as part of a “Potsdam Initiative” for biodiversity. The TEEB initiative was launched and resulted in the production of a series of reports focused on improving the understanding of the economic costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. Since the launch of these reports in 2010, the TEEB initiative through the TEEB-Ecosystems Services and Economics Unit (TEEB-ESE) has implemented three projects and is currently implementing its fourth, under a broader programmatic approach. In fact, beyond the “core” projects, TEEB, as a concept and a brand, has had knock-on effects with many TEEB-inspired initiatives taking place around the world. The work conducted by TEEB and these related initiatives has created an effective bridge between ecological and economic approaches.

However, there is still a long way to go, especially since policy debates in most countries continue to be dominated by mainstream and unsustainable economic policies. To avoid global collapse, it is imperative that rapid and continued integration of ecosystems into mainstream economics takes place, with the ultimate result being a new economic paradigm that puts nature at the core; and a new set of values that does not focus only on commodification. To do this effectively and strategically, it is important to look back at what has worked well in order to be able to catalyse impact faster and further. The year 2020 being deemed the ‘Super Year for Nature and Biodiversity”, it is appropriate for TEEB to illustrate and showcase where real change is taking place in terms of economics supporting positive outcomes for the conservation our biodiversity.

TEEB-Impact is a review and synthesis of the impact that TEEB studies and TEEB country implementation have had so far. These impacts are measured in three ways, namely (i) awareness and understanding that has been successfully raised as a result of TEEB, (ii) capacity building efforts that have changed behaviour, and (iii) any real policy changes and decisions that were a result of TEEB interventions. The TEEB-Impact study focused on two key groups, namely (a) the core UNEP-TEEB initiatives coming from the core projects undertaken by TEEB-ESE since the launching of the series of studies in 2010, and (b) the TEEB-related and –inspired initiatives that have been implemented by other institutions under the umbrella of TEEB (specifically those who have used the TEEB brand and the six-step methodology).

Justine is leading the impact study, and is busy finalising the impact report. UNEP will share aspects of the report widely through a communications dissemination strategy.