Dr. Michael Dutschke, founder and director of biocarbon economics, has been working on climate, energy and land use over the last two decades.
This is the relaunch of biocarbon consult, formed in 2007.
The new name reflects the importance of socio-economic processes in the management of natural resources. It also marks the opening of focus from natural carbon to the economics of ecosystem services and rural development as a whole.
Landscapes, whether used or unused by humans, can only be seen in their social context. In fact, the systems called forests in different landscapes are so diverse that all intents to define them in international terms have failed.
Carbon and other ecosystem services can serve as incentives for rural development, but the real challenge is to recognize the long-term potential rural landscapes offer.
Learning from the experience of economic instruments for climate change mitigation (like A/R CDM, REDD+ and voluntary mechanisms), biocarbon economics takes a holistic and multi-disciplinary look at agriculture, forestry, rural energy and infrastructure, and nature conservation.
Global change is affecting urban and rural areas differently, and the measures required for mitigation and adaptation vary between cities and the countryside.
Rural areas in developing countries have been regarded as victims of urban development. The whole production and infrastructure being oriented toward the cities, living on the countryside offers little incentive. This has led to brain drain into the cities. Also unskilled workforce migrates to urban areas, because even the marginal service activities offer a better living than seasonal jobs or small agriculture.
Most of the sustainability problems identified over the last 25 years have their roots in dysfunctional rural development:
The traditional approach of addressing these problems is poverty alleviation, awareness raising, improved governance, capacity building and education. Activities include well drilling, improving medical facilities and implementing village schools. Although the intention is to create resilience and improve income opportunities, the underlying paradigm is still problem oriented and has therefore not succeeded in leading underprivileged regions onto the path of development.
Little attention has so far been paid to the true development potentials of rural areas, beyond the provision of food and raw materials for industrial production. The new paradigm is rural empowerment. Natural resources need to be managed wisely, in order to maintain their ecosystem services. Forests (even planted forests), aquifers, biodiversity areas and fertile soils provide much more value than is currently being paid for. Roughly one-quarter of the world population has no access to formal markets and is hindered to participate in the solution of the world’s challenges.
As opposed to urban development, rural livelihoods are more determined by their natural circumstances. Each landscape has its own resource fingerprint. Also, social and cultural traditions tend to be stronger.
Rural areas offer huge opportunities in terms of economic development. Communication infrastructure is extending at an unprecedented speed and at the same time, industrial production is decentralizing, due to localized renewable energy production and the rapid adoption of 3D printing technology. Investment in rural areas will no longer be restricted to agro-industry, forestry and minerals. Rural development is more than land grab or the execution of state development plans. Instead, it can be lucrative on the long run, if it valuates and protects diverse ecosystem functions and makes use of the local stakeholders’ experience.
biocarbon economics Ltd.
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DA1 1RZ Dartford / Kent, UK
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