Earth Economics Programs
Ecosystem Service Valuations: Working with public, private and NGO agencies, our Ecosystem Service Valuation (ESV) studies quantify the value of the goods and services provided by regional ecosystems. This valuation justifies the shift of investment toward environmental preservation and/or restoration, and unites diverse interests towards a common goal. For example, in 2010 we completed a valuation of the Puget Sound Basin’s ecosystems, showing they provide up to $83 billion in economic benefits every year.
Accounting and Management Strategies: Working with public utilities, businesses, large land owners and managers, we identify, and helps clients adopt, new management approaches that value ecosystem services in addition to built infrastructure and raw materials. Currently we are working alongside six major water utilities, representing 16 million water consumers, leading a national effort to reassess national accounting standards to include the value of natural capital. To shift private and public investment toward green infrastructure requires that natural capital be recognized as a capital asset that is measurable within standard accounting systems.
Funding Mechanisms for Conservation and Restoration: Working with local and state jurisdictions, we apply innovative approaches to fund critical natural infrastructure and conservation work. For example, we are helping groups in the Green/Duwamish River Watershed design a 21st century institution for Washington State, called a Watershed Investment District. This institution would coordinate, at the watershed scale, flood, stormwater and habitat priorities, creating a dependable and efficient funding mechanism for natural capital
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Recent Success: Providing the economic argument for not drilling in Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park and helping to setup a multi-billion dollar international fund for Amazon forest protection which resulted in international agreements to leave Ecuador’s largest oil reserves in the ground; Working to help the Army Corps of Engineers realize the physical and economic value of Louisiana’s wetlands for hurricane protection which resulted in the first Corps’ cost-benefit analysis exemption and application of multi-criteria decision making to include economics, public safety and wetland restoration.
Earth Economics now has a solid track record of success at the regional, national and international levels. We have completed successful projects in almost every watershed in Western Washington, including the Green/Duwamish, Snohomish, Nisqually, Puyallup, Chehalis and Cedar River Watersheds. Because we are introducing new economic concepts and tools, and because our reputation is growing so rapidly, much of this work involves outreach service (presentations, workgroups, strategy meetings, phone consultations, etc.) which is not covered by project specific grant funding. In 2010, David Batker, our Executive Director, alone presented to over 25 audiences, including universities, civic groups and other NGOs, professional societies, and state and local government. While this outreach furthers our mission and helps to move Washington State’s economy towards sustainability, it depletes resources needed for fundraising, increasing staff size, replacing old equipment and other capacity building requirements. We are in great need of funding for both time and travel that allows us to continue outreach service.