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Sourcebook: Valuing the Benefits, Costs and Impacts of Ecosystem-based Adaptation Measures

This sourcebook assists in building awareness, knowledge and capacity about why, how and in which contexts EbA valuation can be used to inform, guide and influence adaptation decision-making.
Rash Singh


Even though ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) is recognised to hold considerable potential to strengthen climate adaption, it is still yet to be fully mainstreamed into development policy and practice. Valuation can provide convincing – and usually much-needed – evidence of the benefits of investing in ecosystem-based approaches, in themselves, and in comparison (and combination) with grey measures. It offers a tool to guide better-informed decision-making, which results in the delivery of more inclusive, effective and sustainable climate adaptation actions.

GIZ has developed a sourcebook (and training module) to assist in building awareness, knowledge and capacity about why, how and in which contexts EbA valuation can be used to inform, guide and influence adaptation decision-making. The sourcebook combines information on valuation theory and methods with 40 real-world examples and practical steps for commissioning, designing and implementing EbA valuation studies.

It is structured along the following chapters:

  1. Introduction: about the sourcebook
  2. The basics: understanding EbA values and valuation
  3. Defining the purpose: why and when to value EbA benefits
  4. Selecting the methods: how to value EbA benefits
  5. Enhancing the strategic impact: leveraging decision change and influence
  6. Delivering the assessment: commissioning, designing and implementing valuation
  7. Learning from experience: 40 case studies of EbA-relevant valuations
  8. References: key sources on EbA valuation techniques and applications

Summaries and key points are presented at the start of each chapter. Case studies are referred to in boxes throughout the text, and are directly accessible as PDF files, through links.

Figure 2 from page 9 of the Sourcebook: The three basic elements of EbA valuation – benefits, costs and impacts

Summary: best practices and lessons learned about EbA valuation (abridged)

The points below summarise the best practices and lessons learned about EbA valuation (presented in full on pages VI-VIII of the full text). These points are addressed in detail in each of the chapters in the sourcebook.

  • EbA valuation is the process of describing, measuring and analysing how the benefits, costs and impacts arising from the implementation of ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation are generated, received and perceived. While the term valuation is variously understood, there is general consensus that it should be taken to refer to a process of expressing and communicating information about how much something is worth.
  • There are three basic elements of EbA value: benefits, costs and impacts. Benefits are the advantages or positive effects of EbA measures; costs are the resources required to deliver EbA measures, and the disadvantages or negative effects caused by them; and impacts are the effects or changes in situations or circumstances that arise as a consequence of EbA measures having been undertaken.
  • EbA valuation does not only refer to monetary measurements, but also the assessment of biophysical effects, economic and livelihood impacts, social and institutional outcomes and even changes in people’s knowledge, attitudes and practices. A wide array of methods are available with which to value EbA. These deal with different types of benefits, costs and impacts, have varying data needs, and express their results according to an assortment of metrics. On the one hand, the toolbox of valuation methods that can potentially be applied to EbA is a fairly standard one, and differs little from that which is routinely used to assess other types of adaptation infrastructure (or, indeed, public investments and development projects more generally). However, at the same time, ecosystem-based approaches have a number of special characteristics. These add a level of complexity to EbA valuation which may not be present in more conventional appraisals and analyses.
Figure 5 from page 28 of the Soucrebook: Categories of EbA valuation methods and examples
  • Valuation can provide powerful – and much-needed – arguments for investing in Ecosystem-based Adaptation. Ecosystem-based approaches are now recognised to hold considerable potential to strengthen climate adaption (as well as other, closely related, processes such as disaster risk reduction and nature-based solutions). However, they are still yet to be fully mainstreamed into development policy and practice. One important barrier to uptake is the lack of demonstrable evidence of their effectiveness either in meeting adaptation goals or in delivering the other ecosystem service co-benefits that are claimed for them. Another constraint is that, despite a variety of methods being available (and long been used) to assess the costs and benefits associated with both adaptation infrastructure and ecosystem services, these have as yet seen little application to EbA.
  • However academically interesting it is to estimate the value of ecosystem services or the costs and benefits of EbA, these data mean little unless they actually affect how adaptation is planned and delivered in the real world. Valuation should be understood as a ‘knowledge brokerage’ process between the science and policy domains. It seeks to inform, influence or otherwise support decision-making, by transforming data on benefits, costs and impacts into information that can be used to support adaptation policy, planning and management in the real world.
  • The range of possible applications of EbA valuation is potentially very broad and context specific. It spans awareness-raising and priority-setting, through project planning and implementation, monitoring and valuation, to the design of broader policy instruments and incentive mechanisms to be used in support of EbA. Good studies do not only require sound technical methods, but also demand intelligent and strategic management, and ‘joined-up’ thinking. EbA valuation must be designed and conducted in ways that are appropriate to the adaptation decision-making context that it seeks to inform and influence, as well as to the social, economic, institutional and cultural setting in which it is being carried out.
Figure 8 from page 78: Figure 8: Map of EbA-relevant valuation case studies. See chapter 7 for an overview of the case studies included in the Sourcebook.
  • There is no such thing as the ‘best’ EbA valuation method. Methods generate varying results because they represent different perspectives or focus on different factors. Choosing between methods based on technical considerations alone is unlikely to be sufficient to identify the most appropriate design. An important guiding principle in EbA valuation is that one method is rarely enough: focusing on only a single aspect of values (for example biophysical, economic or social) is unlikely to provide an accurate or useful picture. Adaptation typically has multiple goals (which require different methods to assess them), and involves a diverse range of beneficiaries, costs-bearers and other stakeholders (who have different needs, priorities and perceptions of value). In almost all cases, EbA valuation requires taking a multidimensional, multisectoral and multidisciplinary approach, which combines different methods, perspectives and types of expertise.
  • Valuation studies are most likely to be effective and have strategic impact when they manage information generation and dissemination in ways that simultaneously enhance the studies‘ relevance, credibility, and legitimacy to decision makers. Relevance refers to the applicability of valuation findings to the needs of adaptation planners, managers and policy-makers. Credibility deals with the technical adequacy and believability of the evidence and arguments presented about the effectiveness of ecosystembased approaches. Legitimacy reflects the perceived validity and trustworthiness of both the EbA valuation process and its results as being fair, unbiased, and respectful of stakeholders’ divergent values and beliefs.
  • Most valuation studies follow a logical progression through seven main stages. After framing the need for EbA valuation in the first place, the practical purpose and envisaged outcome of the study should be clearly defined. This also involves clearly specifying the questions that the study aims to answer, the stakeholders it seeks to engage with and the target audience that it intends to communicate with. The next step is to scope the values to be assessed, and identify the benefits, costs and impacts that will be considered in the study, as well as the beneficiaries and cost-bearers. Designing the valuation approach involves elaborating the specific methods and metrics that will be applied to measure EbA values. After collecting the data and analysing the information, the findings can be documented and disseminated.
Image from Box 12, page 42 of the Sourcebook. Stakeholders from case study #24:

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