BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
Experts involved in the study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) will from today February 21, 2012, to February 23, 2012, join officials in North Africa and Middle East responsible for national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs), in a capacity-building, workshop, to understand the economic value of nature in order to integrate this into planning.
The three-day region-wide workshop that is being held in Beirut, Lebanon, is also intended to increase capacity in the use of valuation studies on the economic benefits of biodiversity in the decision-making process.
Commenting on the importance of the workshop, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary to the Convention on Biological Diversity, said: “If we are truly going to mainstream biodiversity considerations into economic decision-making, we need to develop the capacity for economic valuation of ecosystem services. This workshop provides the model for this kind of training in support of sustainable development.”
For his part, Pavan Sukhdev, leader of the TEEB study, said: “TEEB provides economic analysis and policy tools to address ecosystem degradation, in order that national and local development goals can be met with the help of environmental security. TEEB also goes further than this and demonstrates, through the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity, that the value of a nation's natural capital is relevant across all government ministries, from the environment through to finance.”
Primarily, holding of the three-day workshop has been informed by the acknowledgement of governments in North Africa and the Middle East of the problem of biodiversity loss and ecosystem services and TEEB’s contribution in providing guidance for balancing economic and environmental concerns, according to a press release from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) secretariat announcing the event.
Further, although many countries, including those in North Africa and the Middle East, already use national biodiversity strategies and action plans under the Convention on Biological Diversity as a central framework for coordinating policy responses to biodiversity loss across sectors and policy areas, a 2010 gap analysis by the Institute for Advanced Studies of the United Nations University revealed, that existing national biodiversity strategies and action plans do not adequately address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss.
It exposes that in particular, the mainstreaming of ecosystems services and biodiversity into economic planning and sectors, as provided for under the new Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 adopted under the Convention, remains a considerable challenge.
The TEEB Workshop for North Africa and the Middle East is thus the first region-wide capacity-building response to this challenge and expected to trigger regional efforts from various partners, elevate more studies in economic valuation of ecosystems and their services by experts from the region and bring it up to speed with global advanced efforts, including through more funding and integration of TEEB outcomes, into decision making and national biodiversity strategies and action plans.
The workshop is co-organised by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), through its Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA) in close coordination with the Ecosystem Services Economics Unit in the UNEP Division of Environmental Policy Implementation (DEPI), the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) and the League of Arab States, in cooperation with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research.
It has also been made possible with funds provided by the governments of Japan, Norway and Sweden, as well as the European Union, while regional organisations participating include the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the Arab Center for Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD), Wetland International Mediterranean Programme Office, Global Mechanism, the Lebanese National Council for Scientific Research (NCSR), national authorities on protected areas, and indigenous and local communities (ILCs).
The workshop takes place under the ecosystem management sub programme of the UNEP programme of work 2010-2011, which seeks to enhance the “capacity of countries to realign their environmental programmes and financing to address degradation of selected priority ecosystem services” and to integrate ecosystems into financial sectors operations.
TEEB, which was launched in 2007 by the G8+5 ministers of environment under the Potsdam Initiative, and coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has drawn attention to the global economic benefits provided by nature, highlighting the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation and clarifying the link between nature, the ecosystem services it provides, and the role these services play in economies.
Following after this, in November 2010, the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for Environment (CAMRE), under the League of Arab States (LAS), recognised the need for valuation studies on the economic benefits of biodiversity and ecosystem services and their links to decision-making processes, and requested funding from international organisations to hold a training workshop for this purpose.
The regional conference “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: recognising and capturing the value of forest ecosystem services in the MENA region”, held in Tunis in June 2011, highlighted first valuation initiatives and innovative finance mechanisms with potential in the region.