Germany has been hit by the most dramatic floods in a decade. Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are also experiencing very high water levels. Up to now, twenty people reportedly have died in the floods across central Europe after several days of heavy rains. Thousands have been put up in emergency shelters waiting for the waters to recede so they can get back to their homes.
Have the unusually heavy rains been caused by climate change? There is no proof for that, but experts suggest that there might be a correlation. “To confirm the exact role played by climate change in flooding trends in past decades, it would be necessary to have more reliable, long-term series data for a rivers with a natural flow regime,” the European Environment Agency (EAA) stated. A far as the future is concerned, rising temperatures in Europe will accentuate rainfall, “leading to more frequent and intense floods in many regions.”
This should be enough reason to rethink the way we use the resources of our planet. One way to do so is to turn Water, biodiversity, soils and forests – and most notably their capacity for storing CO2 – into tradable goods in order to create a „New Economy of Nature“. Proponents point to the experiences of carbon trading. They believe that schemes such as REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and other Payment for Environmental Services (PES) Systems or the new Green Stock Exchange in Rio de Janeiro can help to protect the natural capital for a green economy. They also want to ensure that the national accounts used to measure and plan for economic growth include the value of natural resources. GES-experts have pointed out the value of initiatives like REDD for forest preservation in the past.
Critics fear that assigning a monetary value to ecosystem services opens the floodgates to the financialization of nature, a weakening of environmental legislation and of democratic spaces especially in countries with weak environmental legislation. Furthermore they argue that a market approach undermines the potential for passing binding regulation and leaves those with money the option to buy their way out.
The Global Economic Symposium (GES) is looking for your solution proposals in the topic of “The New Economy of Nature”. Take part in our “Open Solution” and get involved! All contributions will be judged by a jury – the best will win a ticket to GES 2013 in Kiel, Germany – including flights and accommodation.