Valuation without action? On the use of economic valuations of ecosystem services

Economic valuations have raised high expectations to influence policy and alleviate the accelerating degradation of the environment. But heated debates about the use and misuse of valuation have been onging for years. This policy brief synthesizes some key elements and comes to the conclusion that issue of valuation use for decision-making is rarely addressed beyond general statements and suggestions about possible uses.

© Rainer Sturm / Pixelio
Bonn, 24 October 2013 - It is undeniable that international discussions and publications are now massively promoting Ecosystem Services Economic Valuation (ESV) as a tool susceptible to make key contributions to biodiversity protection. Questioning the supposed pragmatism and influence of ESV, while standing clear from ideological statements, is thus both timely and vital.

ESV methods are now highly mature. They have been the subject of a large and growing literature since the beginning of the 1990s. Yet, economic valuation is not sufficient in itself. The hope that it will become an efficient political lever to alleviate environmental degradation supposes above all that it actually be used for decision-making. For this reason, one of the key issues relating to the development of ESV is understanding how and to what extent they are actually used. This policy brief synthesizes some key elements of a bibliographic analysis recently conducted on that topic.

The pivotal finding of the review is that the issue of valuation use for decision-making is rarely addressed beyond general statements and suggestions about possible uses. The common rule is to present an economic valuation, then suggest that it be used for decision-making, but without this use being either explicited or contextualized, and without concrete examples being provided or analyzed. Authors often argue that valuations are highly useful for decisions, but aren't practically used in a way they should be.

The complete article can be downloaded here.

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Tags: Ecosystem valuation | Finance Industry

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