The sustainable use and proper management and conservation of healthy ecosystems and the important ecosystems services they provide our world, has long been linked with achieving sustainable development. Since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals which will guide the world’s sustainable development agenda until 2030, the importance of ecosystem conservation has been globally agreed on as a key strategy to ensuring a sustainable future. A new pilot study gives more evidence of the need for decision-makers to recognise the true value of ecosystem services and for their actions to be driven by the sustainable use and conservation of ecosystems.
A 4-year ProEcoServ project was piloted in 4 countries (South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Viet Nam and Chile) and aimed to integrate the economic value of ecosystems into government policies. The project has identified over 1 billion dollars of benefits in the pilot countries – which indicates massive opportunities globally.
From soil retention services worth $622 million in Trinidad and Tobago to $166 million in savings through an ecosystem service-based disaster risk approach in South Africa, the project’s final report adds further weight to body of evidence proving ecosystems are crucial for sustainable development.
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “The true value of ecosystems is frequently misrepresented in markets and economic decision-making. But the real economies that underpin our societies are themselves fundamentally rooted in the natural world. While ecosystems provide multiple health, scientific and aesthetic benefits, we must enhance our capacity to also reflect their economic value to national and local communities.
“As we take up the challenge of the Global Goals, capturing the ecological and economic value of healthy ecosystems enables us to speak to all three dimensions of sustainable development, including social equity and livelihoods.”
In South Africa, the study found that the Eden District, which has been affected by natural disasters of floods, wildfires and droughts – could have made financial savings of up to $160 million in the 2003-2008 public budget through ecosystem conservation and sustainable use. In addition it found that 400,000 jobs could be created in South Africa from ecosystem restoration activities.
Through the project and its findings, the role of ecosystem services in South Africa is now recognized as a part of an ecological infrastructure, with an active contribution to the $93 billion National Infrastructure Development Plan.
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