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« Resilience & Abundance | Main | Being unreasonable »

Putting a price on nature

Andrew Winston: Dow Asks, Whats the Business Case for Protecting Nature?.

First we measured carbon, and now cats, catfish, caterpillars and catkins.

Watching the vision, application and hiccups of putting a price on things previously seen as having no monetary value is an educational experience. Multiple prices for carbon set by different agencies trading the European Emissions Trading Scheme, and others in the carbon offset business or Clean Development Mechanism were all set with good intent -  yet they conspire to prevent high levels of capital investment to be made, as risks and return need to be mitigated. Fixing a stable, predictable price for this single atom is important, yet proving difficult to manage.

Far more complex will be the process of putting a price on the arrangements of the handful atoms - carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen & phosphorus - on which the majority of life on this planet is built. Until we find a way of measuring what we value, no matter how complex or messy that't going to be, we risk sticking with valuing what we can easily measure - index figures such as the crude yardstick of GDP. Pavan Sukhdev's work on TEEB, The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity, is leading the way and he'll need as many shoulders as possible pushing in the same direction if we're to persuade business leaders and policy makers that measuring the value of the life systems supporting us is really worthwhile. We need to start behaving as though we really valued our life support systems, without waiting for the markets or accountants to tell us what matters.

As a start point, do a couple of things. Find out enough about what's happening to our biodiversity and the TEEB project to be comfortable in conversation, then talk to one or two people a week about it. 

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