Utilization-focused biodiversity economics


Economic tools for biodiversity have been on my agenda since one of my first research assignments, in 1982. As part of a large project led by Claude Henry I examined to what extent economic studies were (or in fact, were not) used in decision-making on a public project for the large-scale drainage of a major French wetland

My findings 

were in line with Claude Henry’s conclusions: there is a large gap between economic evaluation and actual decision-making [insérer la nature, l’ingénieur et le contribuable]. After on and off involvement in the meantime, the issue was dragged back to the forefront of my agenda when Raphaël Billé invited me, in 2008, to comment on Pavan Sukhdev’s presentation of the intermediary version of the TEEB report. Here is the video of that discussion.

This led to my involvement in a research project led by Raphaël on the use of ecosystem services valuation (ESV) in decision-making. One of the findings, based a review of the ESV literature is that there is very little evidence of actual use of ESV for decision-making. My current work on the project, mostly with Yann Laurans, proposes to address this gap by focusing attention on ESV utilization, and on how decisions are really made.

This in turn led to an on-going SSEE project (with Yann Laurans and Tiphaine Leménager) that examines utilization issues accross the board of biodiversity economics, including ESV and “money on the table” market instruments such as payment for ecosystem services, easements, biodiversity banking, etc. The project involved further literature reviews, a series of interviews with economists and decision-makers, and a seminar series at SSEE. As of August 2012, the project report is still at a draft stage.