Economic Valuation of Nature

Jutta Kill, July 2015

The Price to Pay for Conservation? A critical exploration

‘Nature is destroyed because it’s invisible to politicians and business’, advocates of economic valuation say. The implicit assumption: Create a ‘nature that capital can see’ and the loss of biodiversity will be stopped. But it isn’t that simple!

Possibly far-reaching changes in perception and subtle changes to legal principles will go hand-in-hand with creating a ‘nature that capital can see’. Abundant absurdities are coming to the fore in the attempt to turn the web of life into neatly packaged, measurable and comparable ‘ecosystem service’ units. They deserve exploring.

This brochure takes up arguments put forth in the debate about a new economy with nature. It shows that the political question is not whether economic valuation automatically involves putting a ‘price tag on nature’, but if it encourages pricing in practice. Sadly, the early examples of what ‘trading in environmental services’ looks like in reality already provide sufficient reason for saying ‘No’ to more of the same.