The IUCN Environmental Law Programme (ELP) and the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law held a joint workshop on Saturday 30th June 2012 at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, USA, entitled “Ecosystem Services, Economic Valuation and Environmental Equity: Complementary or Contradictory?”. The workshop preceded the Academy’s 10th annual colloquium, this year on “Global Environmental Law at a Crossroads”.
In the aftermath of the recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) held mid-June in Brazil, and in light of renewed claims for improved environmental governance and the progressive transition towards a green economy, an in-depth discussion about the benefits and potential risks of an ecosystem services approach to environmental protection was most appropriate.
Nine presentations of completed, but unpublished, scholarly works considered different angles of optimal approaches for protecting ecosystem services, the benefits and potential risks of an ecosystem services approach to environmental protection, and the equitable implications of ecosystem services protection and valuation. This workshop built upon the work of the Law Programme and the Academy, bringing together the elements of the previous workshop on the legal recognition and governance of ecosystem services, which was held in July last year in South Africa, and inspired by the first joint workshop on equity, human rights and environmental protection, held in September 2010 in Belgium.
This workshop also contributes into the ongoing work of the IUCN on the topic of rights-based approaches to conservation (RBAs). Considering the inherent links between human rights and ecosystems and natural resources, RBAs serve to ensure that the realisation of rights and the conservation of nature become mutually reinforcing goals. Designing or adopting an ecosystem services approach also has a strong potential to impact on rights/equity (whether positively or negatively) and raises questions such as: what are the implications of payments for ecosystem services for indigenous property rights and uses on traditional lands? Who do the property rights over resources belong to? Are the human rights of forest-dependent people at stake (such as the right to adequate housing or the right to food) if logging or using non timber forest products is prohibited within a PES scheme?
The discussions will be used to introduce an event jointly organised by the IUCN Environmental Law Programme and the IUCN Academy scheduled for the Vth IUCN World Conservation Congress, in Jeju, Korea, in September this year. The event itself will consist of a series of questions that will be asked to a panel of selected speakers from different backgrounds about their views on the interrelation between ecosystem services and equity.
For more information see:
IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Website (http://www.iucnael.org/)
Website of the colloquium (http://www.iucnael.org/en/iucnaelorg-academy-events/220-the-10th-annual-colloquium-of-the-iucn-academy-of-environmental-law.html)
IUCN RBA to Conservation portal (www.rights-based-approach.org)
IUCN World Conservation Congress (http://www.iucnworldconservationcongress.org/)