It’s not difficult to detect the priorities of the tireless Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme. Within hours of arrival for COP11 in Hyderabad, he lavished praise on the controversial series of reports known as The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB).
The closing days of this Conference of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity will be dominated by thorny discussions about financial resources necessary to halt the loss of global biodiversity.
By attributing monetary value to “ecosystem services”, TEEB overcomes our practice of valuing environmental assets as zero, the fatal flaw of contemporary economics. TEEB would ensure that decisions about commercial developments are better informed.
Critics describe the approach as the monetization of nature, a first step to the privatisation of everything, leaving citizens without their most basic rights.
The last biodiversity COP in 2010 rejected the TEEB approach. It was floated again at the Rio+20 summit in June as the core tool of the so-called green economy. Most world leaders warm to the idea but are not remotely willing to rock the boat.
Hyderabad will see another round of passionate debate on both sides. Achim Steiner is TEEB’s most persuasive advocate. At a press conference today he was pitch perfect with his arguments, presented in this case in the context of the value of wetlands. He could just as easily have inserted comparable references to forests, oceans and deserts.