Press release from November 13th, 2009

TEEB report released on the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for National and International Policy makers

Brussels, 13 November 2009 - Policy makers who factor the planet’s multi-trillion dollar ecosystem services into their national and international investment strategies are likely to see far higher rates of return and stronger economic growth in the 21st century, a new report issued today says.

Some countries have already made the link to a limited extent and are glimpsing benefits in terms of jobs, livelihoods and economic returns that outstrip those wedded to older economic models of the previous century.

  • In Venezuela, investment in the national protected area system is preventing sedimentation that otherwise could reduce farm earnings by around $3.5 million a year (Pabon-Zamora et al. 2008).
  • Planting and protecting nearly 12,000 hectares of mangroves in Vietnam costs just over $1 million but saved annual expenditures on dyke maintenance of well over $7 million (Tallis et al. 2008).
  • One in 40 jobs in Europe are now linked with the environment and ecosystem services ranging from clean tech ‘eco-industries’ to organic agriculture, sustainable forestry and eco-tourism.
rapeseed field

One key recommendations for policy makers is to reform environmentally harmful subsidies: reforming subsidies that are inefficient, outdated or harmful makes double sense during a time of economic and ecological crisis.
Photo: André Künzelmann/UFZ

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fish stall

The TEEB report point to four urgent strategic priorities. One is to save and restore global fisheries and related jobs, currently an underperforming asset in danger of collapse and generating US$ 50 billion less per year than it could.
Photo: André Künzelmann/UFZ

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The new report, prepared by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative hosted by the UN Environment Programme, calls on policy-makers to accelerate, scale-up and embed investments in the management and restoration of ecosystems. It also calls for more sophisticated cost benefit analysis before policy decisions are made. The report cites a study on mangroves in south Thailand on the conversion of mangroves into shrimp farms.

Subsidized commercial shrimp farms can generate returns of around $1,220 per hectare by clearing mangrove forests. But this does not take into account the losses to local communities totaling over $12,000 a hectare linked with wood and non-wood forest products, fisheries and coastal protection services (Barbier 2007).
Nor does the profit to the commercial operators take into account the costs of rehabilitating the abandoned sites after five years of exploitation - estimated at over $9,000 a hectare.

The report outlines a ten-point plan aimed at catalyzing a transition to more ecosystem savvy economies able to meet the multiple challenges and deliver the multiple opportunities on a planet of six billion people, rising to nine billion by 2050.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels on Friday 13 November, Pavan Sukhdev, TEEB’s Study Leader, said: "Nature’s multiple and complex values have direct economic impacts on human well being and public and private spending. Recognizing and rewarding the value delivered to society by the natural environment must become a policy priority. The economic invisibility of ecosystems and biodiversity is increased by our dominant economic model, which is consumption-led, production-driven, and GDP-measured. This model is in need of significant reform. The multiple crises we are experiencing - fuel, food, finance, and the economy - serve as reminders of the need for change. It is now up to governments to provide fiscal or other incentives to move us from short-term opportunism to long term stewardship. The right policies can help us move toward a resource efficient economy."

The report comes in advance of the UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen where governments are expected to give the green light to funding developing countries to maintain forests. Close to 20 per cent of current global greenhouse gas emissions are linked with deforestation. Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) aims to counter this while also generating financial flows from North to South. REDD and REDD+, which includes not only maintaining forests but planting and recovering forest systems, secured the backing of close 15 presidents and prime ministers at a special meeting hosted last month by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "Paying developing countries under REDD marks a fundamental step forward in terms of bringing the huge financial importance of ecosystems and biodiversity into the centre of economic activity. "It could open the door to more creative and forward looking funds and mechanisms covering other nature-based infrastructure such as peatlands and wetlands en route to support for the services generated by coastal and marine ecosystems such as coral reefs to mangroves," he said.

The report has a number of key recommendations for policy makers to consider:

  1. Invest in ecological infrastructure:
    This can provide cost-effective opportunities to increase resilience to climate change, reduce risk from natural hazards, improve food and water security, and contribute to poverty alleviation. Up-front investments in maintenance and conservation are almost always cheaper than trying to restore damaged ecosystems, and the social benefits that flow from restoration can be several times higher than the costs. Preliminary TEEB estimates suggest that the potential rates of return can reach 40% for mangrove and woodlands/shrublands, 50% for tropical forests and 79% for grasslands when the multiple ecosystems services are taken into account.
  2. Reward benefits through payments and markets:
    Payments for ecosystem services (PES schemes) from local (e.g. water provisioning) to global (the REDD-Plus proposal for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, as well as from afforestation, reforestation, and effective conservation).
  3. Reform environmentally harmful subsidies:
    reforming subsidies that are inefficient, outdated or harmful makes double sense during a time of economic and ecological crisis.
  4. Address losses through regulation and pricing:
    The cost of losses of biodiversity and ecosystem services should be tackled through regulatory frameworks that establish environmental standards and liability regimes. Designing a robust instrumental and market framework to confront resource users with these costs is a key priority for policy makers.
  5. Recognize that protected areas are a cornerstone of conservation policies and provide multiple benefits:
    The global PA network covers around 13.9% of the Earth's land surface, 5.9% of territorial seas, and only 0.5% of the high seas: nearly a sixth of the world’s population depends on protected areas for a significant percentage of their livelihoods. Investing $45 billion in protected areas could secure vital nature-based services worth some $5 trillion a year, including the sequestration of carbon, the protection and enhancement of water resources and protection against flooding (Balmford et al. 2002). There are also employment incentives for example, in Bolivia protected-area tourism generates over 20,000 jobs, indirectly supporting over 100,000 people (Pabon-Zamora et al. 2009).
    The TEEB study shows that benefits of reform are multiple. It also reinforces the growing evidence that there are a number of urgent strategic ecosystem priorities that require policy shifts to address them.
  6. Halt deforestation and forest degradation:
    This should be an integral part of climate change mitigation and adaptation focused on ‘green carbon’. It has the added benefit of preserving the huge range of services and goods forests provide to local people and the wider community.
  7. Protect tropical coral reefs - and the associated livelihoods of half a billion people - through major efforts to avoid global temperature rise;
  8. Save and restore global fisheries, which are currently under threat of collapse from over fishing;
  9. Recognize the deep link between ecosystem degradation and the persistence of rural poverty and align policies across sectors with key Millennium Development Goals.
  10. Agree a forest carbon deal at Copenhagen

Over 100 experts from science, economics and policy from across the globe have been involved in the research, analysis and writing of the TEEB for Policy Makers report, which has been co-ordinated by Patrick ten Brink of the Institute of European Environmental Policy in Brussels.

TEEB is an independent study, lead by Pavan Sukhdev, hosted by United Nations Environment Programme with financial support from the European Commission; Germany, UK and the Netherlands, and recently joined by Norway and Sweden. TEEB for policy makers is one of a series of five interconnected reports. These include the Report on Ecological and Economic Foundations (parts of which were published online in September 2009) and targeted end-user outputs for local and regional administrators, business and citizens. These will be released in the coming months until the final TEEB synthesis report in October 2010. Work is also taking place to analyze a large number of economic values for the main types of ecosystem services around the world and these findings will also be available in 2010. Further information is at

For further information and to request an interview with Pavan Sukhdev please contact:

Georgina Langdale
Tel: +49 228 929 87 572
Mobile: +49 1707 617 138

Or Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson/Head of Media UNEP, on Tel:
+254 733 632755

The Press Conference takes place at 14.00hours at SOFITEL BRUSSELS EUROPE - Place Jourdan, 1 - 1040 BRUSSELS.
For further information contact:
Barbara Helfferich
+32 2 298 20 10

or Lena De Visscher
+32 2 296 36 94

Notes to editors

  • The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study (TEEB) was launched by Germany and the European Commission in response to a proposal by the G8+5 Environment Ministers (Potsdam, Germany 2007) to develop a global study on the economics of biodiversity loss. TEEB is an independent study, lead by Pavan Sukhdev, hosted by United Nations Environment Programme with financial support from the European Commission, Germany, UK and Netherlands and recently joined by Norway and Sweden.
  • The study aims to draw together experience, knowledge and expertise from all regions of the world in the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions in response to the growing evidence on the impact of the loss of biodiversity moving forward.
  • The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) is a leading centre for the analysis and development of environmental and related policies in Europe:
  • Scientific co-ordination for the TEEB study is undertaken by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig:
  • The term green carbon refers to carbon stored in terrestrial ecosystems e.g. plant biomass, soils, wetlands and pasture and increasingly recognised as a key item for negotiation in the UNFCC (in relation to forest carbon and mechanisms such as REDD, REDD-Plus).

At the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) scientists research the causes and consequences of far-reaching environmental changes. They study water resources, biological diversity, the consequences of climate change and adaptation possibilities, environmental and biotechnologies, bio energy, the behaviour of chemicals in the environment and their effect on health, as well as modelling and social science issues. Their guiding research principle is supporting the sustainable use of natural resources and helping to secure these basic requirements of life over the long term under the influence of global change. The UFZ employs 930 people at its sites in Leipzig, Halle and Magdeburg. It is funded by the German government and by the states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.

The Helmholtz Association helps solve major, pressing challenges facing society, science and the economy with top scientific achievements in six research areas: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Structure of Matter, Transport and Space. With 28,000 employees in 15 research centres and an annual budget of around EUR 2.4 billion, the Helmholtz Association is Germany’s largest scientific organisation. Its work follows in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894).