Asean Conference to Focus on Economic Development and Biodiversity, 21 – 23 October 2009, Singapore

How much does it cost nature to provide humans with clean air, food, water, medicine, livelihood, shelter, clothing, and a whole range of services? How much are humans willing to pay for the maintenance and conservation of these services? Where does one draw the line between economic development and biodiversity conservation?

These are some of the questions that will be addressed at the ASEAN Conference on Biodiversity (ACB2009) on 21 to 23 October 2009 at the Republic Polytechnic in Singapore. The conference’s theme is “Biodiversity in Focus: 2010 and Beyond”.

Hosted by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the National Parks Board (NParks) of Singapore, ACB2009 will be held back-to-back with the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment (AMME).

“We will devote an entire session to the link between biodiversity and economic development as we believe that valuing the economic benefits from ecosystems services is a crucial issue,” Mr. Rodrigo U. Fuentes, Executive Director of the European Union-assisted ACB, said.

The session on “Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity – the ASEAN Region’s Contribution,” will discuss the importance of incorporating economic principles in efforts to conserve biodiversity and maintain ecosystem functions.

Presenters and participants will discuss the synergies exhibited by the various components of ecosystems and biodiversity, and highlight the direct connection of ecosystems degradation and biodiversity loss to economic development.

“The session will also take into account the real value of natural ecosystems and biodiversity vis-à-vis economic development,” Fuentes said.

Leading the roster of speakers is Dr. Haripriya Gundimeda, Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, India, and member of the Economics of Environment and Biodiversity (TEEB) Team of the United Nations Environment Programme. She will present the plenary paper “ Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity.”

The session’s co-chairpersons are Ms. Hitomi Rankine, Environmental Affairs Officer, Environment and Development Division of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and Prof. Navjot Sodhi from the National University of Singapore. Joining as presenters are Dr. Rodel Subade , Director, Institute of Fisheries, Policy and Development Studies,University of the Philippines in the Visayas; Dr. Nguyen Van Song , Head, Environmental and Resource, Economics Department, Hanoi University of Agriculture in Viet Nam; Ms. Beria Leimona , Programme Officer, Rewarding Upland Poor for Environmental Services (RUPES) World Agroforestry Centre in Indonesia; Mr. James Peters, Chief of Party, Asia Regional Biodiversity Conservation Programme, Winrock International; and Dr. Naoki Adachi , Executive Director of the Japan Business Initiative on Biodiversity.

Topics to be covered are wildlife trading; willingness to pay for the conservation of endangered species; payment for ecosystem services; valuing biodiversity conservation in a World Heritage Site; valuing business and biodiversity initiatives; and alternative means of valuing biodiversity.

The two other thematic sessions during the conference are Climate Change and Biodiversity, and Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising out of their Utilization, or what is commonly known as ABS.

Key partners for the conference include the Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia, the United Nations University, the World Agroforestry Centre , the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Asia-Europe Foundation, East and Southeast Asia Biodiversity Inventory Initiative , and the Japan Ministry of Environment.

Over 250 experts, policy and decision makers are expected to participate in ACB2009. For more information on ACB2009, log on to www.aseanbiodiversity.org or e-mail the conference secretariat at ACB2009@aseanbiodiversity.org .