Category Archives: Guidance > Public Policy & Planning

The Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity in Ontario (TEEBO) 2018 update

This report aims to inform Ontarians about key economic issues involving ecosystem services and biodiversity in Ontario. These are considered together because their economic issues are similar. This follows the practice of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), of which Canada is a member.

This report updates an earlier 2012 report with the same title (Miller & Lloyd-Smith, 2012). The present report includes new information and sources, removes some outdated material, and adjusts the amount and ordering of some content.

Many professions and sectors of the marketplace are taking an interest in this subject. Businesses and investors are improving the ways that they measure and manage their interactions with ecosystems, with the aid of accounting professionals. Professional planners, engineers, and infrastructure specialists are improving their conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems, and the use of green infrastructure. Public health professionals are discovering how human health is dependent upon the health of biodiverse ecosystems. Ecological economists and other economists are working to recalibrate economic signals and policies for the sustenance of life on Earth.

Market prices fail to reflect the full economic value of nature. A solution is for economists to generate non-market values, using specific valuation techniques that quantify the importance of changes in biodiversity and ecosystem services. The resulting information helps to make land-use decisions more effective, balance sheets more complete, and economic accounts more comprehensive. All of this enhances efficiency and sustainability, especially when used with economic instruments. Economic instruments aim to more closely align economic self-interest with shared interests in the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Several instruments are available, including ones that affect information, prices, quantities, and legal liabilities, and behaviour.

Fortunately non-market values and economic instruments are increasingly prevalent in Ontario. This is helping several policies and practices that mandate their consideration.

Natural Capital Coalition September Newsletter

Last month, an article and editorial were published in Nature that framed our community as one divided into warring ideological factions, concentrated on squabbles about semantics rather than debates about substance.

Our response has demonstrated that we are anything but.

Last week, Nature published several letters that were received in response, including a joint letter from ourselves, ESP and TEEB, and a letter from IPBES alongside several others.

All letters embody the same core message; that we are committed to working together to protect and enhance the natural world, and that we welcome a diversity of opinions, terminologies and values in this mission.

Many of the leading voices in biodiversity and ecosystems research have also come forward in support of this message.

As we wrote in May: “The more diverse an ecosystem, the more resilient it will be, as it will contain many species with overlapping ecological functions that can be mutually strengthening.

When it comes to systems change, it’s clear that diversity in approach can play the same role as biological diversity plays in an ecosystem. Diversity means many different relationships, and different approaches, working in partnership to solve a common challenge.”

We look forward to continuing these conservations and strengthening the bonds that hold our community together at the Natural Capital Week in Paris this November (26 – 30).

Combatting Canada’s Rising Flood Costs: Natural infrastructure is an underutilized option

This report demonstrates how to quantify the benefits and costs of natural infrastructure as a strong complement or a viable alternative to grey infrastructure option for flood mitigation.

Natural infrastructure can be a cost-effective way to mitigate material financial losses that would otherwise result from flooding Moreover, natural infrastructure can offer other valuable environmental and social benefits that are often not attainable through the implementation of traditional, grey-engineered solutions.

A thorough cost-benefit analysis should measure all infrastructure options through a common cost-benefit lens. For example, although naturally occurring ponds provide stormwater storage capacity, which helps attenuate flooding, they also create habitat for aquatic species, improve biodiversity and provide aesthetic benefits to the community. These additional benefits are not available through a grey infrastructure solution, such as a stormwater storage tank, and this needs to be reflected in a cost-benefit analysis.

A comprehensive assessment of the financial, environmental and social costs and benefits (i.e., a total economic value [TEV] assessment) is required to illuminate these otherwise uncaptured benefits. Canada will continue to experience loss and degradation of its natural infrastructure assets if it does not start to apply a robust TEV assessment for natural versus grey infrastructure solutions.

To assist governments, practitioners and investors with land-use planning and infrastructure investment decisions, this report includes a framework for natural infrastructure project implementation

Ecosystem Services Toolkit: Completing and Using Ecosystem Service Assessment for Decision-Making – An Interdisciplinary Toolkit for Managers and Analysts

The Ecosystem Services Toolkit is a technical guide to ecosystem services assessment and analysis that offers practical, step-by-step guidance for governments at all levels, as well as for consultants and researchers. The approach is fully interdisciplinary, integrating biophysical sciences, social sciences, economics, and traditional and practitioner knowledge. It provides guidance on how to consider and incorporate ecosystem services analysis in a variety of different policy contexts such as spatial planning, environmental assessment, and wildlife management, among others. It contains numerous innovative tools and resources designed to enhance users’ understanding of ecosystem services and to support analysis and decision-making. Canadian examples are featured throughout the guide.

Comprehensive wealth in Canada: Measuring what matters in the long run

This study reviewed Canada’s comprehensive wealth performance over the 33-year period from 1980 to 2013. This timeframe extends well beyond business and political cycles, ensuring that the results reveal trends free from the ebb and flow of markets and policies.

Comprehensive wealth focuses on the role of people, the environment and the economy in creating and sustaining well-being. Complementing indicators like gross domestic product (GDP) and addressing issues the can’t capture on their own, comprehensive wealth measures are key to successfully guiding Canada through the 21st century and beyond.

Comprehensive wealth measures human capital, natural capital, produced capital, and social capital.

The report’s focus on natural capital is on natural capital stocks, which supply ecosystem goods, and not also natural capital funds, which supply ecosystem services. The report draws attention to the drawdown of natural capital (stocks) which usually implies a drawdown in natural capital (funds).

The report says: “Due to a combination of physical depletion and changing market conditions, the value of Canada’s minerals, fossil fuels, timber and agricultural land per person declined by a startling 25 per cent between 1980 and 2013. More recent data signal an even greater decline due to the steep drop in global oil prices. A series of climate and ecosystem indicators compiled for the study point to declines in other forms of natural capital.”

Ontario’s Five Year Climate Change Action Plan (2016-2020)

This plan describes the actions we will take over the next five years to fight climate change: to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and help move us to a prosperous low carbon economy. It recognizes the tremendous economic opportunities that exist for Ontario as the world seeks to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It ensures our businesses, innovators and researchers are well positioned to develop the clean technologies and low-carbon solutions that will ensure competitiveness, maintain existing jobs and create new ones.

Webinar: An Introduction to the National Ecosystem Services Classification System

Webinar: An Introduction to the National Ecosystem Services Classification System

Start date: 2016/01/14 – End date: 2016/01/14
Location: online

Join the National Ecosystem Services Partnership at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions for the first in a two-part webinar series that provides an overview of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Ecosystem Services Classification System tool and its relationship to the Final Ecosystem Goods and Services Classification System, .

The EPA’s Charles Rhodes and Dixon Landers will discuss similarities and differences between these two tools.

When: 1-2 p.m. ET Jan. 14

Fostering the Provisioning of Ecosystem Services by Private Landowners

The past decade has witnessed a burgeoning interest within scholarly and applied circles in the re-casting of environmental amenities as commodities for trade, marketable in much the same way as a loaf of bread or a quart of strawberries. With the ostensibly growing foothold of the ‘ecosystem services’ (ES) paradigm, the public good nature of environmental stewardship has been thrust into the limelight. The newly-emergent perspective holds thus: given that individual landowners are expected to bear the responsibility of meeting heightened standards of environmental protection through additional expenditures or foregone development opportunities, and yet society at large reaps the benefits, they should be remunerated by society.
This thesis explores the governance arrangements that would serve to foster the provisioning of ES by private landowners. A heuristic framework is first developed, offering a means of systematically contemplating critical issues influencing the viability and performance of ES governance alternatives. Set in eastern Ontario, the empirical portion of the research assesses the interests of landowners, and program and policy professionals, for different ES governance mechanisms. In brief, interests were varied, with an openness to a range of arrangements. Notably, preferences tended toward arrangements exhibiting cooperative and collaborative leanings, and away from those with competitive underpinnings. These understandings inform the elaboration of a set of high-order design features envisioned as preconditions in a governance ‘architecture’ supportive of the provisioning of ES. The findings suggest that a more open embrace of hybridity in institutional arrangements may offer a way forward as ES governance alternatives continue to be conceived. They also point to the need for a re-imagining and re-constituting of relationships such that they truly embrace the principles of mutual regard, reciprocity, and trust; such ‘relations of regard’ may serve to realize a renewed social contract between those working the land, and those looking on from beyond the farm (or woodlot) gate. Consistent with this suggestion, the findings underscore the need for a greater sensibility to the diverse motivations that inspire the provisioning of ES. In contemplating prospects for reflexive governance approaches to enhance the provisioning of ES, the findings suggest reason for cautious optimism.