Thursday, September 9, 2010

Biodiversity as a global public good

The following excerpt is from an article recently published in the journal Science (one of the most widely read and prestigious science journals in the world). The numbers in parentheses are citations from the article. I can list those for you if you're interested.

Citation: "Biodiversity Conservation: Challenges Beyond 2010", Michael R. Rands et al., Science, 329, 1298, 2010.

"To address the continued global loss of biodiversity,
we propose the pursuit of three interconnecting priorities: (i) to manage biodiversity as a public good, (ii) to integrate biodiversity into public and private decision-making, and (iii) to create enabling conditions for policy implementation."

"Managing biodiversity as a public good. An appreciation of biodiversity as a public good (65)
and of its economic value (66) is, we believe, central to future effective conservation. Biodiversity loss is rarely the intended consequence of human actions; more often it is an unintended side effect of decisions taken for other reasons—an economic “externality” (67). Biodiversity is a special kind of externality, as the impacts of a particular action are often distant in space and time (e.g., local rainforest loss may affect the global carbon cycle, with consequences for future generations). This makes effective regulation difficult, as no single body has jurisdiction over the world’s biodiversity. It also makes transaction based
solutions difficult, because those who damage biodiversity are often widely separated, in
space or time, from those who experience the consequences. Actors have few incentives or opportunities to change their behavior, whether they are small holder households planning their annual agricultural cycles or large multinational companies determining their corporate priorities. Thus, understanding and managing biodiversity as a global public good,which must be provided through conscious collective choices (68), is fundamental to achieving its conservation (5). "

"The recognition of biodiversity as a public good is not a new concept, and in recent years
economists have made substantial progress in developing valuation techniques that quantify the local and global benefits of biodiversity (69). Measuring the economic values of biodiversity (5) and estimating spatially explicit economic values of services across landscapes to inform management decisions (70) are vital. However, making these values explicit is insufficient to bring about a change in behavior, unless supporting public policies are in place that either reward positive individual actions or penalize harm. Economists need to work more closely with conservationists and policy makers to develop intervention strategies
that shift individual actors toward more biodiversity-friendly behavior, using regulatory
devices as well as incentives, thereby securing the provision of biodiversity conservation as a
global public good. "

"Integrating biodiversity into public and private decision-making. The value of biodiversity
must be made an integral element of social, economic, and political decision-making, as is starting to happen with carbon and climate change. Government, businesses, and civil society
all have crucial roles in this transition. For government, maintenance of stocks of natural capital must become an explicit, accountable, and implemented element of policy. Concern
for biodiversity cannot be restricted to a nation’s environment ministry but must extend
across all sectors of government, such as treasury, industry, and defense. Policy change will require clear and cost-effective metrics of natural capital consumption and depletion (71) and the development of systems of public accounts that include both sustainability (72) and the specific issue of biodiversity loss (5). Government staff and politicians may need in-service training in biodiversity science and ecological economics, with effective research support. Research investment will need to focus on applied transdisciplinary problems. Government will need to remove perverse subsidies detrimental to biodiversity, such as in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. Fishing subsidies encourage overexploitation of two-thirds of fish stocks across the globe, threatening both the fishing industry (worth $80 billion to $100 billion per year) and the 27 million people dependent on it (5, 73). Government policy needs to integrate biodiversity conservation, poverty alleviation, and the demands of a sustainable
economy (74) to meet the Millennium Development Goals (75)."

There's a lot of stuff here related to our class. Personally I was really excited to this in Science, as these are messages that colleagues and I have been trying to deliver for a long time.

Anyone care to attempt a summary sentence or two?


Todd Ebner said...

Here is my attempt at a quick summary...

Biodiversity is so difficult to manage because no single body has jurisdiction over the world's biodiversity, since it is so separated throughout the world. Nations need to work more closely together with one another including economists and conservationists. Maintainence of the environment has to be in all sectors of decision making such as private firms, government actions and civil society in general.

Ryan McKnight said...

My three sentence summary:

First and foremost, the world's governments must recognize that biodiversity is a beneficial global public good (nonrival and nonexcludable). In addition to this recognition, governments must put in place economic incentives and regulatory mechanisms to change the behavior of individual market participants - to make market production and consumption biodiversity-friendly. Lastly, governments must promote a biodiversity-friendly agenda by conducting more research and quantitative analysis on biodiversity loss, providing relevant science training to policymakers, and removing harmful subsidies.