Concept Paper: Governing biodiversity and ecosystem services through market-based instruments? Theory and practice for decision-makers


INVALUABLE European Research Project


Whether in the context of the post-2015 development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or the UNFCCC climate conference taking place in Paris at the end of this year, the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services remains essential for human well-being, while ecosystem-based options are also seen to offer part of the solution. Development, poverty alleviation, climate mitigation and adaptation, together with biodiversity preservation are thus interrelated policy strategies which should be pooled together and mainstreamed in all economic sectors. In this regard, by modifying behaviours, allocating scarce resources optimally, and leveraging private funding, market-based instruments (MBIs) are often alleged to potentially better integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services (B&ES) into society.

Nevertheless, for this to happen, appropriate institutional arrangements need to be designed, promoted and implemented; supportive regulations, legal frameworks and policies need to put in place; researchers, decision-makers, practitioners and civil society need to be informed, sensitised but also actively involved.

The INVALUABLE project aims at responding to such societal challenges by engaging with diverse stakeholders. On 19 June in Paris, it publicly presents its main results and policy-relevant messages and wants to confront these with diverse actors concerned with the conservation of B&ES. Funded by the ERA-Net BiodivERsA as part of the 2011 joint call for research proposals, the INVALUABLE project, coordinated by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) in Paris, started in January 2012. It gathers together 9 European institutions and around 40 researchers.

In order to feed useful debates on the potential of MBIs to help better manage B&ES, the project especially focuses on the analysis of payment schemes for ecosystem services (PES) and biodiversity offsets (BO). In particular, the project :

  • clarifies the nature and meaning of the heterogeneous group of MBIs;
  • informs stakeholders, including decision-makers, about the relevance (or irrelevance) of using MBIs, with associated strengths and weaknesses;
  • provides an analysis of the emergence of MBIs in societal discourses in relation with their theoretical foundations;
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