Main content area

Economic Inequality and the Value of Nature

Drupp, Moritz A., Meya, Jasper N., Baumgärtner, Stefan, Quaas, Martin F.
Ecological economics 2018 v.150 pp. 340-345
ecological value, economic valuation, ecosystem services, environmental policy, households, public services and goods, social inequality, willingness to pay
Understanding what influences the value of nature is crucial for informing environmental policy. From a sustainability perspective, economic valuation should not only seek to determine a society's willingness to pay for environmental goods to devise an efficient allocation of scarce resources, but should also account for distributional effects to ensure justice. Yet, how economic inequality affects the value of non-market environmental goods remains understudied. Combining recently developed theoretical results with empirical evidence, this Commentary shows that more equal societies have a higher valuation for environmental public goods and that non-market benefits of environmental policy accrue over-proportionally to poorer households. On this ground, we discuss implications for environmental valuation, management and policy-making and identify a number of fruitful areas for future research. We conclude that environmental valuation should explicitly account for economic inequality, and that encompassing assessments of the distributional effects of environmental policies must consider the distribution of non-market environmental benefits.