Benefits of valuing nature for the Caribbean Netherlands

The Natural Capital of the Caribbean Netherlands

Ongoing developmental pressures in a context of global environmental change and economic liberalization challenge the physical and economic security of the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands. These challenges require an integrated, multi-scale research approach that supports the development of a strong green economy of the islands. In the period 2012-2014, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for the Netherlands (TEEB-NL) program supported multidisciplinary research in Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba to study the economics of nature in the Caribbean Netherlands. The research generates relevant information for supporting green economic development of the islands in different ways. 

The focus of the study is to value nature through the perspective of various stakeholders such as local residents, visitors, tourist industry and residents in the Netherlands’ mainland. More than 1,500 local individuals and 2,000 Dutch respondents were interviewed to learn about their relationship with nature and extract information about their willingness to pay for nature management on the islands. Among others, the study concludes that the benefits of nature in the Caribbean Netherlands are not only enjoyed by local stakeholders but also to a large extent by citizens in the mainland of the Netherlands. By summing up the worth of the range of valued ecosystem services, the annual TEV of the natural environment of the Caribbean Netherlands is estimated to be $122 million. This is close to $5.800 per capita of residents in the Caribbean Netherlands and clearly demonstrates that the economies of the three islands are highly dependent on natural assets.1

The valuation results were used to develop several tools that can be easily applied to raise awareness, support decision-making, develop sustainable financing mechanisms or to serve as input for spatial planning. The study can also be used to assess the economic loss if natural assets are damaged by, for example, ship groundings, oil spills or other types of destruction. However, damage assessment studies have not yet been developed in this project. The tools answer questions relating to current environmental management issues. Stakeholders and local experts provided input to determine the most relevant management issues to investigate in the study. By increasing the information and transparency on issues that that are related to the natural environment of the Caribbean Netherlands more equitable decisions can be made.

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