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Accounting for the Increasing Benefits From Scarce Ecosystems

As people get richer, and ecosystem services scarcer, policy-relevant estimates of ecosystem value must rise

Governments are catching up with economic theory and practice by increasingly integrating ecosystem service values into national planning processes, including benefit-cost analyses of public policies. Such analyses require information not only about today’s benefits from ecosystem services but also on how benefits change over time. We address a key limitation of existing policy guidance, which assumes that benefits from ecosystem services remain unchanged. We provide a practical rule that is grounded in economic theory and evidence-based as a guideline for how benefits change over time: They rise as societies get richer and even more so when ecosystem services are declining. Our proposal will correct a substantial downward bias in currently used estimates of future ecosystem service values. This will help governments to reflect the importance of ecosystems more accurately in benefit-cost analyses and policy decisions they inform.

Read the full paper here.