05 JAN 2012: INTERVIEW
Indian banker Pavan Sukhdev has been grappling with the question of how to place a monetary value on nature. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he discusses the ways natural ecosystems benefit people and why policymakers and businesses must rethink how they assess environmental costs and benefits.
How do you put a price tag on the value of nature? That’s the question Indian banker Pavan Sukhdev and his colleagues are seeking to answer in their international project on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which culminated in a major report issued last month. The challenge, as Sukhdev sees it, is how to address the “economic invisibility of nature,” which allows the economic value of ecosystems to be ignored by governments and businesses.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360 editor Roger Cohn, Sukhdev, who heads a green consulting firm in based in India, cited crucial benefits from nature that are often overlooked, including the capacity of wetlands for filtering water, the role of forests in preventing erosion and flooding, and the importance of bees in pollinating crops. “When did the bees last send you an invoice for pollination?” he asks.
Sukhdev contends that the current tough economic times globally might be the right moment to promote awareness of the real value of natural systems. “If we think differently,” he says, “if we value natural capital, if we see its productive potential and its employment potential, we might have solutions in our hands.”
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