Further information on the New Economy of Nature

Here you will find recommendations and links to the most important articles, publications, databases and videos related to our dossier "New Economy of Nature".

1. Inside the Green Economy – Promises and Pitfalls.
Barbara Unmüssig, Lili Fuhr, Thomas Fatheuer. Oekom, 2015.  EN

The concept of the Green Economy is being touted as a model to solve ecological and economic problems. But can it really? The authors investigate the basic assumptions of the Green Economy, its hypotheses and solutions. Can “green” technologies truly be a solution if they boost consumption further? What is the value of green growth if emissions from the use of fossil fuels continue to grow at the same time? What are the limits and contradictions of a concept that wants to save nature by assigning a monetary value to its services?

2. Carbon Metrics. Global abstractions and ecological epistemicide.
Camila Moreno, Daniel Speich Chassé and Lili Fuhr. Heinrich Böll Foundation, 2016. EN 

What are the knock-on effects for policy on global environmental crises when the perspective on these crises is through numbers rather than political economy? What does such a perspective entail for societal change? The authors explore these questions in the context of climate policy. They show how the focus on CO2 as the lense through which climate change is considered, has created a great deal of new knowledge. Yet, the authors argue, this focus on numbers is hindering an understanding of the conflicts of interests, relations of power and the political economy of the climate crisis.

As a consequence, the cause of climate change is identified as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases rather than the dependence of the economic system on the burning of the fossil carbon contained coal, oil and natural gas. This description of the climate crisis through numbers paves the way for emissions trading and carbon pricing to be understood as solutions while the necessity to end the exploitation of fossil carbon deposits is discarded as solution.

3. Economic Valuation and Payment for Environmental Services. Recognizing Nature’s Value or Pricing Nature's Destruction?
Jutta Kill. E-Paper Heinrich Böll Foundation, 2015. EN

The author notes that while economic valuation of nature is not a new phenomenon, key assumptions of the current debate nevertheless differs from those that drove earlier waves of economic valuation of nature. Current valuation approaches are not concerned with making economically visible physical goods such as timber of certain tree species or genetic sequences of medicinal plants. Rather, current valuation approaches attempt to make certain functions of natural habitats economically visible – the capacity of a forest to store carbon, for example, or to provide habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species.

The most popular instrument in the current wave of economic valuation of nature is the trade in compensation or offset credits. These credits represent the economic valuation of a foregone activity: A planned release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is claimed to have been averted or the destruction of an endangered habitat is prevented through compensation measures. Buyers can use such credits to claim that their own destruction or emission has been compensated be the supposedly planned emission that did not take place elsewhere.

The publication explores key ecological, societal and economic questions that arise from the attempt to economically value functions of nature that in many ways defy the kind of quantification required for economic valuation. Online comments on the arguments and analyses complement the arguments presented in the publication.

4. REDD: A Collection of Conflicts, Contradictions and Lies.
World Rainforest Movement. Report. 2015.   EN

The publication “REDD: A Collection of Conflicts, Contradictions and Lies” contains the perhaps most extensive collection of early critical reports and case studies on REDD+ projects. The 24 examples document how REDD+ projects threaten smallholder land use and forest peoples while at the same time being unsuitable for tackling the causes of large-scale deforestation: not one of the documented REDD+ projects targeted precisely those causes.

References to more recent academic research on REDD projects and programmes initiated since 2015 are available on the REDD-Monitor website.

5. 50 Shades of Green: The rise of natural capital markets and sustainable finance – Part I: Carbon. Green Finance Observatory. Report, 2019. EN 

The publication provides a well-referenced short introduction into the assumptions that underpin emissions trading as well as a discussion of experiences with implementation of emission trading schemes in different contexts. Taking the assumptions that underpin the concept as a starting point, the author exposes conceptual contradictions that have been brought to light during implementation of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. The report shows that despite reforms to addresse emerging contradictions, the scheme has been unable to deliver the promsied price signal for transformation away from fossil carbon burning. In the chapter 'A political win and an environmental failure', the author explores why, despite convincing proof of concept, decision-makers hold on to emissions trading, and even expand its use to additional economic sectors, such as international aviation.

 6. 50 Shades of Green. Part II: The fallacy of environmental markets. Green Finance Observatory. Bericht, 2019. EN

What is the consequence for EU environmental legislation when nature is perceived as 'nature capital' and habitats become providers of ecosystem services? According to the author, such an economic perception of nature paves the way for the introduction of compensation into EU environmental legislation. This, in turn will undermine strict limits for water pollution and destruction of natural habitat.

The publication provides an overview of initiatives undertaken by the European Commission that aim at introducting compensation into EU legislation. Terms such as nature capital and ecosystem services are explained and assumptions that underpin compensation are critically assessed. An outlook at possible future environmental markted built on nature as provider of ecosystem service show that the European Commission is among the strongest proponents of such initiatives. By contrast, EU citizens overwhelmingly rejected biodiversity compensation in a public consultation carried out by the European Commission in 2014.

7. Regulated Destruction. How biodiversity offsetting enables environmental destruction. Friends of the Earth International. Report, 2019.  EN  FR  ES

Mandatory compensation payments facilitate the destruction of forests for mineral extraction and infrastructure in India while compensation offset schemes justify the flooding of iconic waterfalls in Uganda, only for the waterfalls set aside in compensation for the destruction to be flooded a few years later by another hydro power development.

The report shows how presenting nature as natural capital is used by a growing number of countries to undermine existing environmental legislation and make it easier for protected habitat to be legally destroyed. The policy instrument that allows such destruction is compensation. With compensation, it is possible for companies to obtain licenses to destroy even inside protecte areas, as long as the promise is made to compensation for the destruction by protecting threatened habitat or restoring degraded nature elsewhere. The report includes examples of such compensation projects and describes changes of environmental legislation in a number of countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Canada.

8. You can’t value what you can’t measure”: a critical look at forest carbon accounting.

Lauren Gifford. Article, 2020. EN  Zusammenfassung: EN

In this academic publication, the author explores how forests became units of carbon that can be used to calculate equivalences with carbon released from deposits of fossil carbon underground, in coal, oil or natural gas deposits. How did inventors of so-called REDD projects manage to establish a hypothetical assumption (a supposedly planned destruction of a forest is being averted through the REDD project) as credible, even allegedly verifiable, basis for compensation of real emissions of greenhouse gases – even though the underlying calculations are riddled with contradictions and produce numbers with enormous error margins?

REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and has been the dominant international forest policy approach since 2005. Yet, global deforestation continues to rise.

Based on examples of REDD initiatives in the USA and Peru, the academic paper explains how the production of new knowledge and the invention of complex calcluations has helped to obfuscate contradictions that underpin REDD. The author explains the role of REDD projects referring to 'best practise' plays: New REDD projects apply dubious assumptions and calculations with the justification that these methodologies and calculations have become established and are widely used in comparable projects.

9. Forests, carbon markets, and capitalism: How deforestation in Indonesia became a geo-political hornet’s nest. Bernice Maxton-Lee. Artikel, 2020. EN

The article provides a taste of the inconvenient conclusions the author drawn in her book Forest Conservation and Sustainability in Indonesia. A Political Economy Study of International Governance Failure. She argues that while consuming certified products from deforestation-free supply chains, signing petitions calling for the protection of species and habitats or buying carbon offset credits can calm the conscience of concerned consumers, but it will not end deforestation. The author anaylses initiatives aimed at halting deforestation in Indonesia and explores why these have been unable to curb deforestation.

Using the example of REDD, the article describes how complex mathematical calculations and obscure assumptions are used to conceal the failure of the concept that aims to combine forest and climate protections. "If I have 5 apples, and John takes 4, how many apples do I have left? This is a basic question of arithmetic, a simple question from school days, in which teachers would ‘make maths fun’, the author explains, "In those easy, childhood days, there was a right answer to that question, and a wrong one. If I answered ‘1’, I’d get a ‘tick’ next to my homework. If I answered ‘well it really depends on how you look at it. John has turned my apples into a complex basket of fruit-based derivatives, to better exploit their full market potential, so the overall situation, though complicated, is actually improving’, I’d probably have got detention for talking nonsense."

Yet, that is precisely the mathematical acrobatics found in REDD project documents. As the author shows, such complex calculations help hide from plain view the fact REDD has been unable to address the factors that continue to make deforestation a lucrative business.

10. REDD Monitor [website]  EN

This website provides excellent information on REDD – the international forest policy approach that claims to bring together forest conservation and climate protection. 

The website covers a wide range of issues related to REDD and carbon markets. Archived articles document the history of REDD and provide information on early REDD projects which have often disappeared from the webpages of carbon offset providers even though they sold carbon credits from them.

11. Banking Nature FR EN
Arte documentary, 2015.

“Banking Nature” investigates how various countries are transforming nature into a tradable product and making it accessible to the financial market. How did conservation become a global market? Why is the financial world so intensely interested in this new economic sector? What is the relationship between the actors on the new markets and those responsible for the global financial crisis in 2008 / 2009? How are lobbyists influencing international institutions such as the UN or the EU to increase this “natural capital”? What are the laws governing these new markets?