06.10.2021

Factoring in biodiversity impacts in economic decision-making

Corals

Workshop fosters regional cooperation on the economic valuation of marine ecosystem services in Central America & the Dominican Republic. Photo: Tobias Buchberger

Occupying as little as one percent of the world’s surface, Central America is home to an impressive 7% of global biodiversity. Due to the geographical circumstances, the region is also especially vulnerable to extreme weather events, with local populations depending on the resilience provided by intact marine ecosystems. In this light, the connection between protecting biological diversity and protecting human communities helps us understand why nature conservation is so essential.

Economic valuation for the protection of marine ecosystem services

Ecosystem services, the goods and services we receive from ecosystems around us, can be vital for our wellbeing. Marine ecosystems provide us with food and building materials while also functioning as natural allies in our fight against climate change – both in terms of mitigation and resilience against its ramifications.

Consequently, it is of utmost importance to include ecological factors in decision-making. Regardless, most public and private incentives merely grant potential environmental harms a subordinated, secondary status. Addressing this crucial shortcoming, economic valuation can lay bare the “hidden” value in protecting, restoring and conserving marine and coastal ecosystems, and thereby contribute to a more sustainable development path. With the help of economic valuation methods, this benefit can be conceptualized in monetary terms, and subsequently e.g. compared with preservation or restoration costs, or used in the context of environmental impact assessments.

Bio-Bridge Initiative

Financed by the International Climate Initiative (IKI), the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) is supporting partner countries Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Honduras in a joint initiative that aims to foster regional dialogue and cooperation on the economic valuation of marine ecosystem services (VESEMAR – Valoración Económica de Servicios Ecosistémicos Marinos) in Central America and the Dominican Republic. The project originated from the Bio-Bridge Initiative, an overarching program looking to facilitate technical and scientific cooperation among parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to tackle biodiversity-related challenges.

Regional Workshops scientific findings with regional experience

On the 28th and 30th of September, two workshops united over 40 selected experts and decision-makers from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. During the sessions, both regional advances and international best practices in the economic valuation of marine ecosystems were highlighted.

The workshops were kicked off by Dr. Claudio Chiarolla, Programme Management Officer
for the Bio-Bridge Initiative, Capacity Building and Knowledge Management Unit at the Secretariat of the CBD, Lola Mueller, Policy Officer for the ‘United Nations, 2030 Agenda, Developing and Emerging Countries’ unit at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), and Oscar Mejía from the Secretariat of Energy, Natural Resources, Environment and Mining (Honduras).

Throughout the two-day event, leading international experts highlighted state of the art methodologies and scientific advances. The participants then went on to discuss concrete potential for implementation in their respective countries. Additionally, the importance of considering multiple value systems was addressed, especially regarding diverse demographic groups in the regional context, such as Indigenous peoples. This would result in economic policy instruments that were both more impactful and more legitimate. Moreover, the presentation of PANORAMA introduced participants to a platform that fosters international exchange on conservation issues by providing replicable, solution-based building blocks.

A guidance for future applications

Based on the successful collaboration as part of the seminar, the project team is currently developing a regional guidance manual for the economic valuation of marine ecosystems, which is expected to be published later this year. The manual will offer directly applicable methods to lay bare the value of ecosystem services. By sensitizing and mobilizing public and private decision-makers, this is anticipated to advance marine ecosystem conservation efforts in the region.


Project conception and implementation

The project was conceptualized by IKI-projects Strategic Environmental Dialogues and Blue Solutions, as well as BMZ-project Business Cooperation and Biodiversity in Central America and Dominican Republic. It is carried out in close collaboration with the CBD, the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD), the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Honduras), the Viceministry of Coastal and Marine Resources (Dominican Republic), and the Viceministry of Water and Oceans Affairs (Costa Rica). Further assistance is provided by the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) (Costa Rica).