Environmental and Resource Economics, 2018, Vol.71(1), pp.205-215
While recent experimental frameworks for national ecosystem service accounting have shown substantial progress, in our view some crucial methodological issues remain that deserve further consideration before setting final standards. In response to the landmark work of Obst et al. (Environ Resour Econ 64:1–23, 2016. doi: 10.1007/s10640-015-9921-1 ), we provide arguments with regard to the suitability of particular valuation approaches. Generally, we agree that respective valuation methods need to produce values that are consistent with national accounting standards such as representing exchange values. However, we disagree with their conclusions regarding specific valuation techniques. Firstly, the circumstance that methods used for estimating shadow prices can also be used to derive consumer surplus does not justify the general exclusion of all shadow pricing methods for valuation of ecosystem services for national accounts, especially for public ecosystem services. Secondly, that preference-based methods can also be used to assess welfare changes does not imply that cost-based methods are generally better suited for ecosystem accounting. To the contrary, we see an essential need for preference information in accounting contexts. Thirdly, that accounting standards use a written-down replacement cost approach, does not mean ecosystem accounting requires to employ a replacement cost approach. To the contrary, we argue that assessing ecosystem degradation through restoration costs would be in line with writing down depreciation, but we also point to its limits.
Accounting standards ; Ecosystem services ; Economic valuation ; Natural capital
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