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