Investing in Natural Capital and Getting Returns

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
New Zealand Productivity Commission, Level 15, Fujitsu Tower, 141 The Terrace

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 The Government Economics Network (GEN) and Productivity Hub invite you to:

Roundtable discussion with
Associate Professor Marjan van den Belt
Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability), Victoria University of Wellington

Time:  10.30 am to 12.00 noon 

How can policy contribute to the productivity performance of the New Zealand economy and well-being? Natural Capital underpins both the economy and well-being. Natural Capital ‘produces’ Ecosystem Services – the benefits people derive from ecosystems. Some of these Ecosystem Services can be derived from manufactured, Built Capital. However, this is often expensive and can create ‘investment traps’ where, for example, river management, coastal and flood protection requires exponential investment in grey infrastructure to sustain protective services.

By widening the notion of ‘productivity’ into the realm of Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services approach we create an organising principle that allows consideration for better decision making across the spectrum of Natural to Built Capital. An Ecosystem services approach will be presented from an Ecological Economics perspective. This includes the characteristics for a tool box for decision support (and examples) that highlight distinctions between ‘price and value’, changes over ‘space and time’ and ‘issues of distribution and fairness’.

This approach will illustrate what Social and Human Capital is required to transition toward a society able to ‘invest in Natural Capital and getting sustainable and desirable returns on such investments’.

Marjan van den Belt holds a PhD in Marine Estuarine Environmental Science from the University of Maryland, USA and a Masters in Business Economics from Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands. She has used an ecosystem services approach for 20 years, predominantly in stakeholder participatory processes guided by model building and scenario development. She is a co-author on the seminal article in Nature on the ‘Value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital’ (Costanza et al. 1997) and lead editor of ‘Ecological Economics of Estuaries and Coasts’ (2011) featuring an ecosystems services approach. Relevant appointments include 1) Pool of Experts for the United Nations World Oceans Assessment; lead-author on ‘Scientific Understanding of Ecosystem Services’ and 2) Expert Member of Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on ‘Methodology development for ecosystem service assessments on values and valuation’ as well as ‘Policy support tools for scenario analysis and modelling of biodiversity and ecosystem services’ and 3) Editorial Board of the Journal ‘Ecosystem Services’. She teaches a paper on Ecological Economics, highlighting Ecosystem Services. As Science Leader of MBIE-funded programmes, her trans-disciplinary research interests span land (e.g. urban, agricultural and conservation) and water (e.g. rivers, coast and marine) as they relate to human well-being.