TEEB’s core objective is measuring what matters. TEEB synthesizes knowledge from ecology, economics, policy, and social sciences to provide recommendations to end users (namely national and local governments and businesses) to measure, value, and mainstream biodiversity and ecosystem services into their respective decision-making processes.
Conventional economic aggregates generated through national accounting, such as GDP, do not reflect the extent to which production and consumption activities may be using up environmental assets and limiting the capacity for these assets to generate ecosystem services in the future. In the operating space of public policy, TEEB recommends reforms to, inter alia, public policies for subsidy reform, land use management, protected area management, investment in natural infrastructure restoration, and national accounting to include natural capital.
Since its inception, TEEB has recommended the development of natural capital accounts to improve the information base for decision-making. Following the TEEB approach requires questions to be asked – and answered - such as “What are relevant ecosystem services? From which biomes and ecosystems do they emanate? Whom do they benefit and to what extent?” The process of attaining comparable answers to such critical questions will benefit from the adoption of a common conceptual framework, and the System for Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) offers such a framework.
The System for Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) is the accepted international standard for environmental-economic accounting, providing a framework for organizing and presenting statistics on the environment and its relationship with the economy. It brings together economic and environmental information in an internationally agreed set of standard concepts, definitions, classifications, accounting rules and tables to produce internationally comparable statistics. The SEEA Central Framework (CF) looks at environmental assets (e.g. water resources, energy, forests, fisheries), their use in the economy and flows back to the environment in the form of waste, air and water emissions. The SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (EEA), on the other hand, takes the perspective of ecosystems, considering how environmental assets interact with natural processes within a given spatial area.
Today, TEEB is directly influencing and contributing to methodological developments in the SEEA-EEA, for example in the development of guidelines for applying economic valuation under ecosystem accounting and global guidance on the application of SEEA-EEA accounts to policymaking, using scenario analysis.
It is important to note that valuation is just one, albeit a very useful, component of natural capital accounting. In practical terms, natural capital accounting (NCA) can exist without economic valuation and vice versa. However, it is useful to know in quantitative biophysical terms if the extent of your old-growth forests has gone up or down over time, and/or what the provision of various ecosystem services has been irrespective of whether you value these in dollar terms (or even qualitatively) or not.