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Business, Biodiversity, Economics and a New Panel

"The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity Report for Business,"or "TEEB Report for Business,"
is not unlike the many documents that have made the connection between global climate change and
the threats and opportunities it poses for business. (Bishop, Joshua et al. July 2010. "TEEB - The
Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity Report for Business - Executive Summary 2010." Accessed July 16, 2010.)
Like so many carbon market analyses, the report highlights growing voluntary markets. Similar to
the arguments for offsetting carbon footprints, the report makes the case that consumers will
increasingly want a smaller "ecological footprint." Like so many carbon sequestration projects, the
report highlights how innovative businesses will fare well in this new social environment. But unlike
all those previous reports from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or
conservation organizations or carbon analysts, this report is about biodiversity.
What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is short for biological diversity. Simply put, biodiversity stands for the incredible variety
of life forms on planet Earth. If ecosystem services are life support, then biodiversity is the engine
that drives those services.
Biodiversity exists at at least four different scales. At the genetic level, it means the diversity of DNA
and genes that code for variable traits in organisms. At the species level, it means the diversity of
different kinds of organisms. At the population level, it means the number and diversity of separate
interbreeding groups of the same species - and it is the separateness of populations which often
leads to variance in traits between populations. At the ecosystem level, it means the diversity of
conditions, habitats and processes that combine to create different ecosystems.
Good News for Biodiversity
An international focus on biodiversity and ecosystem services is complementary to a focus on global
climate change. To combat climate change, the world is seeking to create an accord that will limit

greenhouse gas emissions. One of the primary means of doing so has been to create mandatory and
voluntary markets for carbon emissions credits. In these markets, "offsets" that counteract carbon
emissions can be achieved through technology, but above all through carbon sequestration in
grasses and trees.
How does this relate to biodiversity conservation? Aside from the obvious effects of climate change
on biodiversity, carbon markets themselves have vast potential to affect biodiversity. A world
focused solely on climate change and carbon markets will skew conservation tactics toward carbon
sequestration, potentially to the detriment of all else. Markets, after all, focus with laser-like
precision on profit-making ventures. If there is more profit in monotypic non-native tree plantations
than in preserving rain forests or planting a mixture of native species, there will be little incentive
for attending to biodiversity.
However, a world focused on climate change along with biodiversity and
ecosystem services (BES) is likely to structure its markets and profit-making activities in a more
ecologically sustainable way. Folks at The Bay Bank, an online marketplace for ecosystem services
transactions, say it best: "Ecosystem markets do not operate in isolation from one another - one
conservation action has the potential to develop credits for sale in multiple market spaces. For
example, a riparian forest buffer may generate nutrient reduction credits, carbon credits, and
habitat credits." ( Accessed July 16, 2010).
The "TEEB Report for Business" makes clear at the outset that the main reason biodiversity markets
are beneficial is to counteract "the economic invisibility of nature's flow into the
economy." The authors point out that "our almost total dependence on market prices to indicate
value" means that when pure water, beautiful forests, or abundant species are considered priceless this may well be the same thing as worthless. "Economic valuations, in particular, communicate the
value of ecosystems and biodiversity . . . in the language of the world's dominant economic and
political model."
The UN Establishes a "Biodiversity Panel"
In 2007, the UN Environmental Program's IPCC shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore "for their
efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay
the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." (
accessed July 16, 2010).
The month prior to release of the TEEB Report for Business, a historic meeting in Busan, South
Korea resulted in the decision to establish a similar intergovernmental panel for biodiversity (June
11, 2010. "Breakthrough in International Year of Biodiversity as Governments Give Green Light to
New Gold Standard Science Policy Body." Accessed July 16, 2010). The
Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was
endorsed by many world governments, among them, the U.S., the EU, and Brazil.
If the IPBES follows in its IPCC cousin's footsteps, it has the potential to do for biodiversity what the
IPCC has done for climate change: at long last make it a household word.
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