In the last few decades, environmental sustainability has been recognized as a key part of development.
But let`s be honest:
Economy-centred growth, with little regard for environmental impact, still dominates the development strategies of most countries.
However, systematically taking the environment into account is not only an issue of commitment: new tools and methods are needed to overcome the shortcomings of the old strategies focusing on economic growth.
What´s nature “worth“?
Environmental conservation is often seen as altruistic and anti-commercial.
Even though you can´t put a price on nature, the valuation of ecosystem services tries to show how much certain benefits of a sound environment – like food provision or climate regulation – are worth in monetary terms. This makes it easier for authorities to justify eco-friendly decisions and triggers citizens to take a stand for the environment.
In Armenia, we conducted a case study of a not-yet-exploited gold mine.
The study showed that ecosystem services like food, water, and clean air provision have a significant economic value in the region, and that mining would negatively affect these services.
Nevertheless, the most important outcome of the study is that local experts have been trained in the valuation of ecosystem services. The government is really interested in the method, and we are working together to assure that it will be regularly applied in the development of big projects.
Environmental costs and benefits should not only guide project decisions, but also be seen as part of the national economic performance.
This means that apart from goods and services, the GDP should take into account pollution and the depletion of natural resources. In Tajikistan, this process will be accompanied by tracking the environmental effects of public spending.
The success of these new approaches all depend on the availability of data, which is why monitoring is so important.
With our support, Kyrgyzstan has become the first country in Central Asia to pilot the OECD green growth indicators. The national statistic committee learned how to deal with complex environmental data and now monitors 65 indicators related to poverty and environment.
This enables the government to take action based on evidence.
Finally, these developments in Central Asia are not isolated from each other, but form part of the same regional programme. We’ve worked hard to enable knowledge exchange between participating countries.
For example, the experience gained in the Armenian mining study is equally valuable for the green accounting aspirations in Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan is also about to introduce accounting and budgeting tools similar to Tajikistan, so the two countries will work together closely to reach their common goals.
The new tool and methods are the perfect match for a broader change in the countries´ development. They are translating environmental efforts into numbers that everybody can understand, making it easier to strive for better results.
Do you have other ideas how policy-makers can take the environment into account?