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Market Based Ecosystem Services
29 Jan 2009
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1. The world's ecosystems face competing demands from agriculture, mining, forestry and urban development.

2. Forecasts indicate the world's population will increase 50% by 2050 and food demand will double in the next 50 years.

3. These influences will place increasing pressure on the ability of ecosystems to provide vital environmental goods and services.

4. The United Nations "Millennium Ecosystem Assessment" identified four primary services provided by the world's ecosystems: provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural.

5. The proposed Australian Ecosystem Service Scheme encompasses a private sector funded, whole-of-landscape approach as the cornerstone of a national climate change initiative. It would be voluntary, implemented on marginal land, and paid as a performance-based, annual cashflow stream.

6. Market prices often fail to incorporate environmental externalities making it cheaper to degrade the environment.

7. Paradigms are, however, changing. Consumers are paying for "Green Energy", Organic Food and Fair Trade products.

8. Australian Government policy is also changing and environmental stewardship is being encouraged.

9. An Australian Ecosystems Scheme should deliver carbon, water, biodiversity, soil and salinity credits, together with renewable energy and biofuels.

10. A balance, however, is required between food security, climate change initiatives and ecosystem preservation. Emissions trading policy, therefore, cannot be made in isolation.

11. The world’s farmers have the greatest capacity to protect and enhance the world's ecosystems. They manage 60% of the world's productive landmass and 70% of it's freshwater and have already developed numerous innovative ecosystem service schemes.

12. In India, farmers are planting Jatropha in marginal farmland and degraded forest to produce biodiesel and carbon credits.

13. In the US 300 farmers are responsible for New York City’s water quality and are collectively paid US$7.0m/year to deliver safe drinking water for the City’s 9 million residents.

14. UK farmers are planting a bumble bee pollen and nectar mix on marginal farmland, thereby guaranteeing vital plant pollination and halting bee decline on over 25% of the UK's arable land.

15. The island of Samsø converted to 100% renewable energy using a combination of windmills, central heating plants, biomass and solar generation.

16. The Australian Government does not have the resources to fully fund a national stewardship scheme.

17. It should provide enabling legislation, allow a non-government organisation to administer the scheme and the private sector to develop and drive the marketplace.

18. The scheme must be equitable, with consumers paying land mangers who deliver ecosystem benefits above their environmental duty-of-care.

19. Confidence in the integrity of an ecosystem scheme will only eventuate if backed by proven scientific research.

20. And agriculture’s appetite to participate in an ongoing scheme will be influenced largely by cost-benefit analysis and scheme flexibility.

21. Australia should seize the opportunity to lead the world in sustainable ecosystem preservation and management. Recognising that agriculture is vital to the nation’s food security and sustainable ecosystem preservation and therefore, that consumers must pay the true price for ecosystem goods and services.

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