A few pioneers are integrating conservation and human development. The Costa Rican government is paying landowners for ecosystem services from tropical forests, including carbon offsets, hydropower production, biodiversity conservation and scenic beauty. China is investing $100 billion in “ecocompensation,” including innovative policy and finance mechanisms that reward conservation and restoration. The country is also creating “ecosystem function conservation areas” that make up 18 percent of its land area. Colombia and South Africa have made dramatic policy changes, too.
Three advances would help the rest of the world scale such models of success. One: new science and tools to value and account for natural capital, in biophysical, economic and other terms. For example, the Natural Capital Project has developed InVEST software that integrates valuation of ecosystem services with trade-offs, which governments and corporations can use in planning land and resource use and infrastructure development. Two: compelling demonstrations of such tools in resource policy. Three: cooperation among governments, development organizations, corporations and communities to help nations build more durable economies while also maintaining critical ecosystem services.
This article was originally published with the title Boundaries for a Healthy Planet.