Wed, Oct 17, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Biodiversity conference mulls costs

DOLLARS AND CENTS:The idea of putting a price on resources has gained traction in recent years as more flora and fauna species approach the extinction level

AFP, HYDERABAD, India

“Everyone should be paying for their impacts on, use of, and reliance on biodiversity and its services, if they want it to continue to be available,” he said.

However, at this point, many of the toughest questions come to the fore.

Should there be a tax or levy? Conservation charges? Payment for “services” that nature has hitherto provided for free? Could there be a biodiversity market, such as that created for carbon to provide incentives for reducing polluting emissions?

Moran said assigning property rights might be a solution.

“If those resources are entrusted to specific communities or countries as owners, then they have the right to charge for use. They also have the incentive to sustainably manage their resource for the long term,” he said.

This is not an alien concept. People already pay entry fees to conservation parks and communities receive royalties on the use of medicinal plants, for example.

Whatever the option, Carroll said, “you need regulation and real enforcement to achieve meaningful scale.”

While the jury remains divided on the exact approach, a new study last week said US$4 billion per year are needed to reduce the extinction risk for all known threatened species, and another US$76 billion to protect conservation sites.

“The total costs are very small relative to the likely costs of inaction,” said study author Donal McCarthy, an economist with BirdLife International.

“The total is just 1 to 4 percent of the net value of ecosystem services being lost annually, for which estimates range from US$2 to US$6.6 trillion ... The total required is less than 20 percent of annual global consumer spending on soft drinks,” McCarthy said.

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