Natural capital can be described as both renewable and non-renewable stocks of natural resources and the services they provide – basically it is everything nature offers for “free”. Markets do not take into account the ‘free’ services provided by nature, therefore a variety of initiatives have emerged to value natural capital.
Valuation is key element if better decision making and accounting are to begin to value our planet’s assets. Both ‘polluter pays’ and ‘beneficiary pays’ examples have appeared.
Payment for ecosystem services (PES)
Payments for ecosystems are voluntary payments made by the beneficiary of an ecosystem service to the steward of that service. The payment mostly aims to secure the future continuity of the ecosystem service or to enhance the quality of the service. Both countries and companies have used payment for ecosystem services to recognise the benefits of ecosystem services and protect them.
The Payment for Ecosystem Services Scheme used in Costa Rica is an example of the successful application of the beneficiary pays model. Costa Rica is one of the leading countries when it comes to nature conservation. It pioneered the payment of land owners to protect its forests and its different ecosystem services including wildlife habitat and carbon storage. Costa Rica’s PES has enabled the country’s forest cover to increase from as little as 20% in the 1980s to over 50% today.
A similar approach was used by Nestlé, which used PES to encourage farmers surrounding the Vittel water catchment to change their farming practices. Cash payments were made to reduce ground water pollution through changes in animal feeding, reducing stocking rates per hectare and lowering agrochemical use. The PES was used to ensure future continuity of the business in the area.
Biodiversity offsetting aspires to compensate for biodiversity losses caused in development projects. The process aims to achieve conservation in order to keep the impact of a new project to a minimum whilst achieving zero net loss through the creation or enhancement of nature sites elsewhere.
Biodiversity offsetting can be achieved either through the payment of offsetting fees or the purchase of biodiversity credits. Both methods are used to counterbalance and compensate for the impact of a project on biodiversity when the initial loss cannot be avoided or mitigated. However, offsetting is controversial with some questioning whether the impact of the offset is positive, and if the initiative genuinely provides an alternative to no action at all. The question remains whether it is possible to ‘swap’ nature and whether potentially unique biodiversity destruction can ever be offset?
The ‘polluter pays’ principle is another way to value natural capital and translates in taxes on environmental damage. Carbon taxes and the landfill tax are two examples.
In Europe, the Emissions Trading Scheme was implemented in 2005 as a cap and trade system, in which emission allowances were allocated to companies. It now covers 12,000 installations, representing approximately 45% of EU emissions. If emissions exceed authorisations to pollute, allowances can be traded. So far the initiative has not proven successful as carbon prices have plummeted and a tonne of CO2 trades at less than five euros17. In addition, some countries have set their own carbon taxes or carbon price floor. Sweden, which set a price back in 1991, has today the highest carbon price in the world amounting to approximately $160 per tonne. This has contributed to efficient decoupling of GDP growth from emissions. Between 1990 and 2014, GDP grew by 58% while CO2 equivalent emissions were reduced by 23%18.
The landfill tax is another initiative that makes the polluter pay for the negative impact on the environment. The landfill tax was introduced in the UK following the EU landfill directive. In the UK the current standard tax per tonne of waste diverted to landfill is £84.40/tonne. As a result, municipal waste diverted to landfill was reduced by 49% between 1995 and 2013.
Extra-Mile Water Conservation Efforts Amidst Shortage
While some states are literally flooding due to heavy rains and run-off, others are struggling to get the moisture they need. States like Arizona and California have faced water emergencies for the last few years; water conserving efforts from citizens help keep them out of trouble.
If your area is experiencing a water shortage, there are a few things you can do to go the extra mile.
Repair and Maintain Appliances
Leaks around the house – think showerheads, toilets, dishwashers, and more – lead to wasted water. Beyond that, the constant flow of water will cause water damage to your floors and walls. Have repairs done as soon as you spot any problems.
Sometimes, a leak won’t be evident until it gets bad. For that reason, make appointments to have your appliances inspected and maintained at least once per year. This will extend the life of each machine as well as nip water loss in the bud.
When your appliances are beyond repair, look into Energy Star rated replacements. They’re designed to use the least amount of water and energy possible, without compromising on effectiveness.
Only Run Dishwasher and Washer When Full
It might be easier to do a load of laundry a day rather than doing it once per week, but you’ll waste a lot more water this way. Save up your piles of clothes until you have enough to fully load the washing machine. You could also invest in a washing machine that senses the volume of water needed according to the volume of clothes.
The same thing goes with the dishwasher. Don’t push start until you’ve filled it to capacity. If you have to wash dishes, don’t run the water while you’re washing. Fill the sink or a small bowl a quarter of the way full and use this to wash your dishes.
Recycle Water in Your Yard
Growing a garden in your backyard is a great way to cut down on energy and water waste from food growers and manufacturers, but it will require a lot more water on your part. Gardens must be watered, and this often leads to waste.
You can reduce this waste by participating in water recycling. Using things like a rain barrel, pebble filtering system, and other tools, you can save thousands of gallons a year and still keep your landscaping and garden beautiful and healthy.
Landscape with Drought-Resistant Plants
Recycling water in your yard is a great way to reduce your usage, but you can do even more by reducing the amount of water required to keep your yard looking great. The best drought-resistant plants are those that are native to the area. In California, for example, succulents grow very well, and varieties of cactus do well in states like Arizona or Texas.
Install Water-Saving Features
The average American household uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water every single day. You obviously can’t cut out things like showering or using the toilet, but you can install a few water-saving tools to make your water use more efficient.
There are low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucet aerators. You could also use automatic shut-off nozzles, shower timers, and grey water diverters. Any of these water saving devices can easily cut your water usage in half.
Research Laws and Ordinances for Your City
Dry states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada must create certain laws to keep the water from running out. These laws are put into practice for the benefit of everyone, but they only work if you abide by the laws.
If you live in a state where drought is common, research your state and city’s laws. They might designate one day per week that you’re allowed to water your lawn or how full you can fill a pool. Many people are not well versed in the laws set by their states, and it would mean a lot to your community if you did your part.
Cyprus is the Forerunner for Ecotourism
When I was looking for a second citizenship, I happened to see One Visa’s offer on Cyprus Citizenship by investment program. I had heard about Cyprus being a beautiful country, but I did not know much else, so I decided to start my own research about this gem of a place.
After I did some research, I discovered that Cyprus is a popular destination for tourists. Unfortunately, heavy tourism and the associated development affected villages here and there, with some communities being slowly abandoned. To avoid this from happening any further, Cyprus went into ecotourism, and today, it is the forerunner in this arena. Let’s look in further detail at ecotourism in Cyprus here.
How was it started?
It all started in 2006 with the launch of the “Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative.” This program has the sole scope of promoting ecotourism developments in the tourism industry. It concentrates on those areas which require conservation and environmental safety. At the same time, it helps develop social, as well as economic statuses in the rural parts of Cyprus. Through this program, the government was able to acknowledge that ecotourism will play an essential role in the future of Cyprus, with the concept gaining momentum among tourists from all over the globe.
How to go about it?
So, now you are interested in going for an ecotourism vacation in Cyprus. How will you go about it? I would immediately say that everyone should visit the quaint Cypriot villages spread throughout the island. These communities have a smaller population, and not many tourists visit. They make for a great relaxing spot. Enjoy seeing the bustle of village life go by where simple pleasures abound. Most hamlets are linked by specific minibus tours which ferry tourists to these havens. These trips will have a regular schedule, aimed at promoting ecotourism further. Such tours will be regulated to ensure that while the villages can benefit and develop, they do not get overpopulated or overcrowded with tourists. Therefore, you can be sure to enjoy the beautiful sceneries that nature has to offer here.
If you are wondering if there are any activities to do here, my answer would be: “Yes, plenty.” You can go for some guided walks across various regions here. Here you will be able to explore the diversified natural beauty and wildlife of the area. Several agritourism activities and services are planned to open shortly. Once launched, you will be able to engage in picking olives, milking goats, and several other such events here.
What can be learned?
Although we are aware that natural resources need to be preserved, we do not always remember it in real life. When we go on tours such as these, we can realize the significance of protecting nature. Also, when more and more people visit these places, the concept of ecotourism will become popular among more people. Awareness about ecotourism is set to grow and spread throughout the world. Subsequently, sustainable tourism will gain popularity around the globe with Cyprus being the forerunner for ecotourism .