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Biodiversity Climate Water

Paying Poseidon: Financing the Protection of Valuable Ecosystem Services

By Steve Zwick, Rob Luke, Ameer Abdulla, Erik Ness, Alice Kenny, Tundi Agardy, Winnie Lau - Ecosystem Marketplace, IUCN, Forest Trends, Forest Trends
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Global climate-change talks in Copenhagen might not have yielded a new greenhouse-gas protocol, but they did yield an agreement on the need to develop financing mechanisms that reward people in developing countries for saving their rainforests and adopting sustainable land-use practices — both of which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing carbon in trees and soil. Meanwhile, scores of projects across both the developed and developing worlds are using environmental finance to preserve endangered species, improve water quality, and preserve wetlands — all based on the premise that nature’s living ecosystems deliver valuable services that make them worth more alive than dead. Now it’s time to expand this reasoning to the ocean, where fish are vanishing, coasts are eroding, and algae are having a field day.

Coastal fishing provides half the animal protein and minerals consumed by 400 million people in the least developed countries in the world, and the World Bank says oceans pump more than $25 trillion into the global economy every year.

This same economy, however, is destroying the living ecosystems that protect our coasts, provide our food, and regulate our atmosphere. In an effort to help incorporate the value of these services into our economy, the non-profit Forest Trends launched the Marine Ecosystem Services Program (MARES) in 2009. The organization is built on the belief that by providing reliable information on prices, regulation, science, and other marketrelevant factors, markets for ecosystem services will one day become a fundamental part of our economic system, helping give value to environmental services that, for too long, have been taken for granted.

These articles were commissioned by Ecosystem Marketplace to serve as context and provide background for the MARES Katoomba Meeting, held in Palo Alto, California, on February 9–10, 2010.

The conference is the sixteenth in a series of meetings designed to stimulate and strengthen environmental markets around the world.

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