Frequently Asked Questions
"Natural Capital Germany – TEEB DE" is an interdisciplinary project with the objective to apply the research questions and approaches of the international study The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity − TEEB to the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Germany. It was financed by the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN). The international TEEB study was initiated in 2007 by Germany in the course of its G8 presidency conjointly with the European Commission. Supported by a variety of other institutions, it was implemented under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
"Natural Capital Germany" demonstrates the societal relevance and value of intact nature and its services. Moreover, it makes visible the high costs of neglecting and degrading our natural capital as well as the respective negative repercussions on the economy and society. This provides additional economic arguments for strategic decisions in national and international processes in favor of protecting the climate, biodiversity, water and soil.
Ecosystem services are direct and indirect contributions of nature to human well-being. They encompass material provisioning services (e.g. food production), regulating services (e.g. climate regulation by wetlands and forests through carbon sequestration) as well as cultural services (e.g. supply of recreational space in nature). Biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species and between ecosystems and habitats – is an important basis for these services and is essential to the safe and enduring existence of human life on Earth.
Economically significant ecosystem services are also the self-purification of water bodies, air pollution control by trees and bushes that function as a filter and natural soil fertility. The economic benefits from using genetic resources are already visible today. Future benefits, e.g. in the pharmaceutical sector, cannot yet be estimated. Many important economic branches and numerous jobs , amongst others in agriculture, forestry, fishing, tourism and the health sector, depend directly and indirectly on an intact and diverse natural environment. Aspects with respect to the perception of nature – from aesthetics through identity constitution and quality of life to recreation, relaxation and leisure opportunities – as well as the utilisation of nature as a basis for knowledge, understanding and innovation (bionic) are further arguments in favor of conserving multifaceted landscapes and biological diversity.
"Natural Capital Germany" can help decision makers in capturing nature's wide range of values so that nature protection and the conservation of biodiversity are better taken into account. The project emphasizes that the protection and sustainable use of nature are worthwile also from an economic perspective. The reports provide (additional) economic arguments for nature conservation in order to reach target groups whose decisions have great influence on nature, often without them being aware of this impact.
The project "Natural Capital Germany" was characterized by an open architecture and formation of a "Natural Capital Germany" network in order to reach a broad audience.
The superior goal of the project was to make visible the societal signifiance and value of nature and its associated ecosystem services for Germany and to take better account of them in public and private decisions. In more detail, "Natural Capital Germany" seeks to
- raise awareness on the interrelation of the manifold services of nature, economic value creation and human well-being,
- give an impulse to assess the services and values of nature in more detail and increase their visibility in Germany,
- examine possibilities and develop suggestions to better integrate natural capital in private and public decision processes in order to safeguard natural life-support systems and biological diversity in the long term.
Many decisions in business and society are taken acccording to economic considerations. However, those are often only based on the costs and benefits of human and human-made capital and framed by a short-term perspective. Costs and benefits that are linked to using nature and its resources (the natural capital) are not taken into account.
The finite character of natural resources and the degradation of ecosystems become increasingly evident and lead to societal costs. A multitude of international examples shows: The conservation and sustainable use of nature and biological diversity pay off − also from an economic perspective. Preventive measures to safeguard the foundations of life and economy are usually cheaper than the intent to restore ecosystems and replace natural resources − if that is even possible at all.
"Natural Capital Germany" was coordinated by study leader Prof. Dr. Bernd Hansjürgens and his team at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research − UFZ, Leipzig. Similar to the international TEEB initiative, "Natural Capital Germany" brought together a plurality of authors from science, politics, administration and practice who worked independently and voluntarily on the reports. This process was supported by workshops, public events and other public relations work. The coordination of the single reports was each led by one scientist.
A Project Advisory Board for "Natural Capital Germany" with high-level members from academia, the media and business accompanied the project with their expert knowledge and help to spread the natural capital idea and promote open discussions with the public. A Stakeholder Working Group, primarily made up of representatives of environmental organizations, industry/consumer associations, federal ministries, the Länder (German states) and municipalities, served to integrate societal interest groups. Furthermore, the Working Group strengthened the communication of the project to sectors and political areas that are most relevant besides original nature conservation.
Who are the adressees of the project "Natural Capital Germany – TEEB DE" and who else can profit from it?
From 2012 to 2018 four reports were produced as the project's main output, accompanied by two brochures:
- Report 1: Natural Capital and Climate Policy − Synergies and Conflicts
- Report 2: Ecosystem Services in Rural Areas − Basis of Human Well-being and Sustainable Economic Development
- Report 3: Ecosystem Services in the City − Protecting Health and Enhancing Quality of Life
- Report 4: Natural Capital Germany: New Policy Options − A Synthesis
- The Value of Nature for Economy and Society: An Introduction
- The Business Perspective
By developing and applying suitable economic valuation methods, economic sciences can contribute to demonstrate values. From the variety of values, however, economic approaches only capture a (small) fraction. For a sufficiently reliable economic valuation, a good assessment of ecosystem services is necessary. Natural capital and ecosystem services can be conserved in a more targeted way if we know their current state and understand their development. In connection to economic analyses that build upon this realization, "Natural Capital Germany" thus collected and synthesized existing knowledge.
Yet the project did not result in a national assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services. This remains an important future task, which goes well beyond the frame of this project.
"Natural Capital Germany" is not about putting price tags on plants and animals or about calculating the value of nature in Germany as a single score. Rather, the project is supposed to raise awareness on the societal value of natural capital with the aim to integrate this value − in addition to our moral responsibility − better in private, business and political decisions in the future.
Illustrative case studies for economic valuation and the integration of natural capital in decision processes are presented to show how decision makers can deal with natural capital in Germany in a way that makes economic sense. Greater consideration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in policies, administration and the economy can be promoted by reviewing and refining appropriate instruments.
"Natural Capital Germany" dealt intensively with current and future conditions for policies in line with the conservation of natural capital: responsible institutions, regulations that should enable responsible acting and regulatory, planning, economic, further public (mostly informative) and voluntary instruments, which are − factually or in perspective − available.
In Germany, legislation demands − in addition to the actual protection of species and habitats − to consider several aspects of ecosystem services. This happens for instance under nature conservation law, which comprises also the protection of the functionality and service provision capacity of the natural environment, as well as under water law or construction and planning law. "Natural Capital Germany" examined to what extent these considerations can be improved, e.g.
- by increasing the cross-linkage of involved parties with respect to the development of and decision about measures in order to better account for the diversity and the interaction of ecosystem services as well as their value,
- by enhancing the development of information and valuation aids including rules for their application,
- by systematically involving the broad public and independent experts.
Yes, "Natural Capital Germany" contributes to implement the EU Biodiversity Strategy. Target 2 of the strategy asks the Member States to maintain and enhance ecosystems and their services by establishing green infrastucture and restoring at least 15% of damaged ecosystems by 2020.
By integrating ecosystem services, the EU Strategy meets the requirements of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011−2020 of the 10th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, COP 10, Aichi Biodiversity Targets), which also states the maintainance of ecosystem services as an objective.
"Natural Capital Germany" contributes conceptionally to the implementation of Target 2 Action 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
- Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011−2020 / Aichi Biodiversity Targets see: https://www.cbd.int/sp/
- EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy see: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/biodiversity/comm2006/2020.htm