Who should value nature? Interview with Teresa Pérez

Is valuing nature as natural capital the way to reduce environmental degradation or a dangerous distraction that will commodify the environment? Alongside debates on if we should value natural capital is another question that is very rarely asked: who should value nature?

This exclusive interview with Teresa Pérez is from the report Who should value nature? by Dario Kenner (Why Green Economy?) published by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in December 2014. The report explores how different stakeholders value the environment (ranging from consultancies firms, academics, conservation NGOs to indigenous peoples) and the challenge of identifying who should be involved in valuation in developing countries. Read the report © ICAEW 2014


Teresa PérezInterview with Teresa Pérez, World Rainforest Movement

Established in 1986 the World Rainforest Movement works with local communities to defend their rights over their forests and territories. Based in Uruguay

1) Explain why you think nature should/should not be valued?

There are many reasons why attempts to do monetary valuation of Nature are both doomed to fail and undermine initiatives to transform the current environmental destruction. They include:

  • Valuation confuses symptom and cause: it tries to address the symptom in the belief to be developing a cure for the cause.
  • Valuation, in order to be able to define comparable units for valuation, reduces the complexity of Nature with its intertwined web of social, human, non-human, ecological, cultural and spiritual interconnections to such an extent that the reduction in itself already undermines struggles that point to this very interconnectedness as a reason to respect Nature and its processes.
  • The process of valuation is intrinsically linked with the tools that such valuation will be used in. Some argue that the process of valuation is separate from the tool of pricing, yet history clearly shows that the development of the methods is shaped by the tools to be used and vice-versa.
  • The methodological impossibilities and contradictions are mindboggling. Many compensation schemes have failed, yet despite this documented failure the experimenting goes on without learning from these failures.

2) How do you think different stakeholders will value nature? e.g. government, companies and indigenous peoples.

Neither of these groups are monolithic. Misses the point of what drives valuation and commodification of Nature.

3) To make a successful business case to protect nature do you think a monetary value has to be placed on nature? Would a non-monetary value be as effective?

Business case for whom? For the communities whose businesses and economies are routinely destroyed by those who now suggest that valuation of Nature might help respect Nature and communities? Or a business case for those who find it increasingly difficult to find sectors to invest with the guarantee of double-digit returns without conflicts with communities?

Find out more: Trade in ecosystem services: When ‘payments for environmental services’ delivers a permit to destroy, April 2014


Do you agree with Teresa Pérez? See what others think by clicking on the interviews below and join the debate by adding your comments.

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