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Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag

Information on the project

Valorization of Biodiversity

Thematic area: Energy, resources, environment
Analytical approach: TA project
Topic initiative: Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development
Status: completed
Duration: 2012 till 2014

Background and central aspects of the topic

Very often, biological diversity is considered to be the most important natural legally protected good, which – at the same time – is massively threatened by anthropogenic influences. Since the United Nations' Rio Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, during which i.a. the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted, questions with regard to the protection of biological diversity were discussed intensively in a scientific, social and political context both on the European and national level.

Shortly before the follow-up conference »Rio+20«, taking place in June 2012, the political efforts have been further intensified: Thus, the years 2011 to 2020 have been declared to be the Decade on Biodiversity by the United Nations, while Germany has presented i.a. a federal program implementing the National Strategy on Biological Diversity and the European Union has introduced a Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. With regard to nature conservation, particularly the German Federal Government and the European Union are focusing on an economic paradigm shift which they are also pushing at an international level. Last but not least against the background that the protection objectives of the Rio Conference have been missed to a large extent, economic concepts and instruments are expected to offer new impetus for the protection of biodiversity in two respects: On the one hand, the economic value of natural capital shall be made explicit and be included in (political and entrepreneurial) decision-making processes. On the other hand, it shall be made possible by means of innovative financial instruments to internalize the external costs of the destruction of nature and thus to prevent market failure. Together with the European Commission, the German Federal Government was also the main initiator of the most visible study at the international level regarding the topic of an economic valorization of biological diversity entitled »The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity« (»TEEB study« in short).

The report pointed out that, meanwhile, there is a whole series of scientific methods of economically evaluating specific »ecosystem services«. Even though the abstract economic benefit of biological diversity is beyond all question, there is – however – a controversial discussion among experts regarding the question of to what extent it is reasonable to economize natural capital which can be substituted and instrumentalized only to a very limited degree and which disposes of essential immaterial aspects. An additional challenge are the complexity and global dimension of biological diversity. Corresponding to the complexity of the topic, there is a hardly manageable number of publications regarding the different levels of meaning and of action-oriented initiatives from the regional to the international level dealing with the value of biological diversity. Against the background of this development, the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (TAB) has been commissioned to carry out a study with regard to the topic of »valorization of biodiversity«.

Objectives and approach

The objective of the project is to present the state of research concerning the economic evaluation of biological diversity, to identify desiderata for the German research landscape as well as to elaborate approaches for further scientific and political discussions.

The study shall focus on the following tangible topics: first, an analysis of social and political discourses regarding the commodification of natural capital (in the context of »Rio+20«); secondly, an overview of the state of research regarding economic evaluation approaches of biological diversity as well as an investigation of research activities in Germany concerning this matter; thirdly, – in dealing with the experiences already made within the framework of comparable climate protection measures – an evaluation of financial instruments of nature conservation as well as of their potentials and problems/challenges.