The Invaluable research project

Friday, Apr 25 2014


For the last 50 years, biodiversity has been continuously eroded, as evidenced in several recent reports (MEA, 2005; CBD, 2010; UNEP, 2012; WWF, 2012; IUCN, 2013). 

This in turn has consequences for ecosystem services (provisionning, regulating, support, and cultural) and humanity which depends on these (Cardinale et al., 2012). Deteriorating biodiversity and associated ecosytems negatively impacts people’s livelihoods, especially the poor (TEEB, 2009); hence a critical need to design sound environmental policies to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Against this background, the countries’ ability to tackle the issue at the national and international levels remains limited. While estimates of annual financial funds needed for biodiversity conservation range from 76 to 440 billion USD (McCarthy et al., 2012; Sukhdev et al., 2012), actual current annual funding is estimated between 6,3 and 52 billion USD (Parker et al., 2012; see also OECD work in the INVALUABLE Newsletter #3). As a result, decision XI/4 at the CoP11 in 2012 asked to «double total biodiversity-related international financial resource flows to developing countries».

In this context, academics, practitioners, donors and decision-makers are increasingly calling for new policy instruments able to help filling this funding gap and conserving biodiversity. The Strategy for Resource Mobilization (SRM, goal 4), as well as the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 (decision X/2) thus aim at promoting «innovative financial mechanisms», while Aichi target 3 sets that «positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity [should be] developed and applied».

Practically, the Ad Hoc Open ended Working Group on Review of Implementation of the Convention proposed 6 types of innovative financing mechanisms : (i) Payment for ecosystem services, (ii) Biodiversity offset mechanisms, (iii) Environmental fiscal reforms, (iv) Markets for green products, (v) Biodiversity in international development finance and (vi) Biodiversity in climate change funding (UNEP/CBD/COP/11/14/Add.3, 28 August 2012). 

However, the characterisation and use of such terms to name those new policy instruments is still heavily debated. As stated in the co-chair Summary document of the 2012 Quito informal seminar dialogue, «the choice of terminology might be important (…). Many participants found the term  ‘innovative financial mechanisms’ inappropriate (…). Likewise, many felt the expression ‘markets for biodiversity’ should be avoided as (…) in any discussion of markets, it is important to be clear about what kind of market is being discussed».

Hence, disentangling such critical issues regarding the nature, design and implementation, as well as the impacts and risks, of each of these foreseen new instruments, is critical and policy-relevant. The INVALUABLE research project, a european ERA-Net BiodivERsA-funded project coordinated by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris, is currently contributing to such an important debate. 


INVALUABLE: Objectives and main tasks

The overall objective of the INVALUABLE project is to clarify the potential of market-based instruments (MBIs) to better integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES) into society, based on appropriate institutional arrangements for relevant public policies and an improved utilization of economic valuation approaches. To do so, three main interconnected issues are analysed through an interdisciplinary research framework (see INVALUABLE description brochure). First, the project aims at elaborating a comprehensive theoretical framework in order to define and characterize MBIs for the management of BES and conduct an analysis of the notion of market-based approaches to BES with a focus on institutions, discourses, epistemic communities and social networks (work package 1). Second, project researchers seek to assess impacts of some of these MBIs; in particular, they investigate advantages and risks from biodiversity offsets (BO) and payments for ecosystem services (PES), drawing comparative lessons across several case studies in France (BO), Germany and Belgium (BO and agro-environmental schemes), but also Indonesia, Cambodia, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica (all PES) (work package 2). Finally, the project builds on existing Science Policy Interface (SPI) and decision support system (DSS) tools, as well as legal analysis, so as to formulate relevant options to better integrate scientific results into policy in the field of MBIs for BES (work package 3).


INVALUABLE: Deliverables and events

At the theoretical level (WP1), a typology was designed to characterize economic features of MBIs and main actors’ discourses were analysed. At the empirical level (WP2), a common research framework was agreed on in order to harmonize research methodologies, applied in the different case studies, and allow for the comparison of respective impacts and risks. Assessment criteria tackle main issues of governance, legitimacy, participants’ motivations, environmental effectiveness and finally poverty alleviation. Case-studies have been completed in France, Germany and Belgium, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Brazil and Ecuador, while research continues in Cambodia, Mexico and Guatemala. Third (WP3), in order to improve SPI for sounder policy formulation, the project currently empirically tests an innovative participatory DSS tool called ‘Quick Scan’ in two different real-world situations (Europe).

Scientific production has been the main medium so far used to display the project’s results. On the one hand, articles are being published in peer-reviewed international journals while chapters are being included in well distributed, and largely read, scientific books; in this context, the project held in June 2013 a special session on PES at the International Conference of the European society for ecological economics (ESEE) in Lille, France, while in December 2013 it did organise an International workshop on conservation impact evaluation in Barcelona, Spain.

On the other hand, a project’s newsletter (February 2013, November 2013, April 2014), as well as a broad range of working papers (INVALUABLE publications on the website) are widely available on the internet so as to  disseminate key messages about MBIs, PES and BO, to a larger audience, including policy-makers and practitioners.    


Intermediary and final results from the INVALUABLE project will be disseminated before June 2015 (end of the project). This includes a one-day special session on PES and BO at the International Conference of the International society for ecological economics (ISEE) in Iceland in August 2014, but also involves attendance at the 12th meeting of Conference of the Parties (CoP12) to the Convention for Biological Diversity in October this year in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea as well as at the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 in November in Sydney. 

The INVALUABLE project’s closing and final restitution conference will then be organised in Paris in June 2015 while a collective book will tentatively be released in the beginning of 2016. Both will contribute to disseminate final results from the project and deliver key messages to policy-makers and practitioners and thus help these to formulate and implement better adapted policies and instruments for biodiversity conservation. 


INVALUABLE: Stakeholder engagement and policy relevance

INVALUABLE project activities and results are well integrated within broader research and policy arenas. At the scientific level, the INVALUABLE project efficiently complements other projects which similarly aim at analysing new policy instruments for BES conservation, such as PESMIX, SERENA, and BIODISCEE (in France), POLICYMIX and CIVILand (in Germany), and others. At the policy level, this will create important synergies so as to better inform policy-makers and practitioners at the local (local authorities, NGOs), national (GiZ, KfW, French Agency for Development, German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, JICA, French Ministry of foreign affairs, etc.) and international levels (CBD, SRM, Aichi Targets 3 and 20, the World Bank, WWF, etc.).

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Cardinale, B.J., et al. (2012). Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity. Nature 486: 59-67.

CBD (2010). Global Biodiversity Outlook 3. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montréal, 94 pages.

IUCN (2013). The Starting Point for Conservation Action. The IUCN Red Listof Threatened SpeciesTM. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Gland, Switzerland.

McCarthy, D., et al. (2012). Financial Costs of Meeting Global Biodiversity Conservation Targets: Current Spending and Unmet Needs. Science, Vo. 338, pp.946-949.

MEA (2005). Ecosystems and human well-being: Biodiversity synthesis. A report of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute.

Parker, C., Cranford, M., Oakes, N., Leggett, M., ed. (2012). The Little Biodiversity Finance Book. Global Canopy Programme, Oxford.

Sukhdev, P., et al. (2012). Resourcing the Aichi Biodiversity Targets : A first Assessment of the Resources Required for Implementing the Strategic Plan 2011-2020, Report of the High-Level Panel on Global Assessment of resources for Implementing the Strategic Plan 2011-2020.

TEEB (2009). Strengthening indicators and accounting systems for natural capital, In: ten Brink, P. et al. (Eds.) The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for National and International Policy Makers, Chapter 3. TEEB.

UNEP (2012). GEO5. Global Environment Outlook. Environment for the future we want. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya.

WWF (2012). Living Planet Report 2012. Gland: World Wide Fund for Nature International.


Renaud Lapeyre, scientific coordinator of the INVALUABLE project, is a Research Fellow at the International Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), SciencesPo Paris. PhD, his research work included analysing and assessing the socio-economic impacts of the community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) programme in Namibia, as well as as drinking water treatment in rural areas in Kenya through community mobilization and collective action. His current work involves researching about market-based instruments for biodiversity conservation, including payments for ecosystem services (especially in Indonesia). Renaud has been an active CFA member since 2014.

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The Invaluable research project
Friday, Apr 25 2014


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