Na­ture’s worth

Go­ing by cur­rent ac­count­ing meth­ods, a cleared for­est is more profitable than one stand­ing. A UN study hopes to over­haul this skewed view.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE -

THERE are al­ready many ex­am­ples of how plac­ing a value on nat­u­ral ser­vices would bring eco­nomic wind­falls. Sus­tain­able fish­eries: Fish­er­men around the world could reap an ex­tra US$50bil (RM160­bil) an­nu­ally if the cur­rent over-ex­ploita­tion of fish stocks, caused partly by bil­lions of dol­lars in govern­ment sub­si­dies, ended. Com­pe­ti­tion be­tween highly sub­sidised in­dus­trial fish­ing fleets cou­pled with poor reg­u­la­tion and weak en­force­ment of ex­ist­ing rules has led to over­ex­ploita­tion of most com­mer­cially valu­able fish stocks. Na­ture’s work­ers: In­sect pol­li­na­tors are na­ture’s multi-bil­lion dol­lar providers. For 2005, the to­tal eco­nomic value of in­sect pol­li­na­tion was es­ti­mated at €153bil (RM665.5bil). This rep­re­sents 9.5% of world agri­cul­tural out­put for hu­man food in 2005. The sea pro­vides: The an­nual value of hu­man wel­fare ben­e­fits pro­vided by co­ral reefs range from US$30bil to US$172bil (RM96­bil to RM550­bil) an­nu­ally. Al­though just cov­er­ing 1.2% of the world’s con­ti­nent shelves, co­ral reefs are home to an es­ti­mated one to three mil­lion species in­clud­ing more than a quar­ter of all ma­rine fish species. Some 30 mil­lion peo­ple in coastal and is­land com­mu­ni­ties are to­tally re­liant on reef-based re­sources as their pri­mary means of food pro­duc­tion, in­come and liveli­hood. Na­ture’s lungs: Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in the city of Can­berra, Aus­tralia, have planted 400,000 trees to reg­u­late mi­cro­cli­mate, re­duce pol­lu­tion and thereby im­prove ur­ban air qual­ity, re­duce en­ergy costs for air-con­di­tion­ing as well as store and se­quester car­bon. These ben­e­fits are ex­pected to amount to some US$20mil to US$67mil (RM64­bil to RM214­bil) over the pe­riod 2008-2012, in terms of the value gen­er­ated or sav­ings re­alised for the city. Wa­ter fil­ters: New York City paid landown­ers in the nearby Catskill moun­tains be­tween US$1bil to US$1.5bil (RM3.2bil to RM4.8bil) to im­prove farm man­age­ment tech­niques and stop pol­lut­ing run-offs. By re­ly­ing on nat­u­ral wa­ter pu­rifi­ca­tion, the city did away with buil­ing a new wa­ter fil­tra­tion plant which would have cost over US$6bil (RM19.2bil) plus US$300mil (RM960mil) in an­nual op­er­at­ing costs. The to­tal sav­ings amounted to US$6.5bil (RM20.8bil). The newly wealthy: Re­gen­er­at­ing 70ha of de­graded forests in Hi­ware Bazaar, In­dia, has led to the num­ber of ac­tive wells in the sur­round­ing area dou­bling, grass pro­duc­tion in­creas­ing and in­come from agri­cul­ture in­creas­ing due to the en­hance­ment of lo­cal ecosys­tem ser­vices. The re­sult: there are 50 new (ru­pees) mil­lion­aires there. More ex­am­ples avail­able at www. teeb­web.org

Razed: Por­tions of the Ja­manxim Na­tional For­est in the Ama­zon state of Para, north­ern Brazil, have been il­le­gally cleared for a set­tle­ment.

Ma­rine bounty: Fish be­ing har­vested in the vil­lage of Azy­orny, Be­larus. In­dus­trial fish­ing fleets, funded by gen­er­ous govern­ment sub­si­dies, are emp­ty­ing our seas.

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