Making legal use of the valuation of nature

Authored by: Colin T. Reid

Routledge Handbook of Biodiversity and the Law

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138693302
eBook ISBN: 9781315530857
Adobe ISBN:


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Nature can be valued in many ways, but legal relationships reflect only some of these. Western legal systems have traditionally taken into account only some of the ways in which humanity can benefit from nature, predominantly where the benefit is based on physical possession of land or on tangible produce which has a commercial market. Other benefits have not been captured by legal rights and therefore fall wholly outwith the range of legal concern. More recently, an increasing range of values and interests have been brought within the sphere of legal consideration, notably the intellectual property matters discussed elsewhere in this book. Further possibilities, however, arise from the increasing identification of the many ecosystem services provided to us by the natural world and emerging appreciation of what they are worth (TEEB, 2010). The recognition of such services and their valuation creates the opportunity for new approaches to conserving and enhancing these services and the benefits they provide. There are considerable challenges in translating these ideas into enduring and enforceable legal mechanisms and this chapter explores how new legal rights and relationships might be used to limit and reverse the degradation of biodiversity which threatens us all. After some consideration of the role of ecosystem services, the chapter examines different mechanisms based on the “beneficiary pays” or “polluter pays” principles, before considering some common challenges to be faced and the potential for new approaches to conservation.

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