Stephen Polasky (3/21/18)

Stephen Polasky

University of Minnesota

Gross Ecosystem Product for Sustainable Development

Abstract: China is developing and pilot-testing a new measure of ecological performance, Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP), as a guide in securing the well-being of people and nature.  The aim of GEP accounting is to help reveal the contribution of ecosystems to society; show the ecological connections among regions (e.g., between suppliers and beneficiaries of ecosystem services such as flood control or water purification); inform appropriate compensation from beneficiaries to suppliers; serve as a performance metric for government officials; and otherwise inform government policy and investment.  GEP will be reported alongside Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Around the world, there is widespread recognition of the need to move beyond GDP for more complete performance measures of the ecological, economic, and social systems supporting human wellbeing (e.g., Stiglitz et al. 2010, UN Sustainable Development Goals 2015). There are ongoing efforts to provide more complete metrics, including the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (UN 2012, 2013), Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES 2017), Inclusive Wealth (e.g., Arrow et al. 2012, World Bank 2011, UNU 2014), and the Human Development Index (UNDP 1990). But to date these efforts receive far less attention than GDP.  China’s adoption of GEP could put ecological information on a par with economic information in one of the world’s most influential countries.