University of Cambridge > > Land Economy Departmental Seminar Series > Selling nature or saving nature? Theoretical issues and operational challenges for the green economy

Selling nature or saving nature? Theoretical issues and operational challenges for the green economy

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  • UserDr. Erik Gómez-Baggethun, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
  • ClockWednesday 04 March 2015, 16:00-17:00
  • HouseMill Lane Lecture Room 1.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Clare Eaves.

After four decades of international environmental governance, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services remains unabated. In the search for pragmatic responses to global ecological decline, environmental policy and governance increasingly rely on economic valuation and market incentives to promote sustainable use of ecosystem services. The market approach is implemented through two main mechanisms: Market for Ecosystem Services and Payments for Ecosystem Services. The «polluter pays principle» underpinning the former is complemented with the «steward gets principle» underlying the latter. Despite some countries have experimented with variants of these mechanisms for at least fifty years, the notion that public ecosystem goods and services can be monetized and exchanged in markets is a relatively recent phenomenon both in economic theory and environmental policy, and its implementation is not escaping controversy. In this lecture I review the development in the theory and practice of ecosystem services and examine critical landmarks with regard to their incorporation into markets and payment schemes. Ecosystem services are examined in the light of these theoretical developments and in relation to policy efforts to make progress towards a green economy. The lecture discusses the scope and limits of economic valuation and market-based instruments in environmental governance and concludes by identifying major theoretical issues and operational challenges for the economics of ecosystem services and biodiversity, highlighting the potential for transformation as well as the limitations associated to the economic approach to biodiversity conservation.


Erik Gómez-Baggethun (PhD) is a Research Professor at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and a Senior Visiting Research Associate at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford. His research focuses on integrated assessment and valuation of ecosystem services, field in which he has produced over fifty scientific publications. He serves as vice president of the European Society for Ecological Economics and in the editorial boards of several international scientific journals. Erik was lead author of the report ‘The economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ (TEEB), chapter coordinator for the Convention on Biological Diversity’s report ‘Cities and biodiversity Outlook’ (CBO1), and serves in the task force on value and valuation for the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services (IPBES). He currently leads work packages in the projects Urban Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (URBES) and Operationalizing Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services (OpenNESS) and coordinates two national projects on ecosystem services mapping, accounting and valuation.

This talk is part of the Land Economy Departmental Seminar Series series.

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