TEEB Manual for Cities

March 2, 2012

Last Fall, TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity) issued a “TEEB Manual for Cities: Ecosystem Services in Urban Management.”  It is a 41-page report geared to “practitioners and policymakers at the local level – including those directly responsible for biodiversity management and those whose work is indirectly related to biodiversity management (for example planners).”  I.e., it is not a manual for community activists. Still, its content and approach suggests what our municipal governments could do to “to incorporate a consideration of ecosystem services into municipal functioning as a long-term investment to enhance existing municipal management.”

The Manual is the product of cooperation between TEEB (which is hosted by the U.N.’s Environment Programme) and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.  It achieves the remarkable feat of being universal in its language and advice, i.e., applicable to the full range of city experiences in both developed and less developed regions of the world.  The advice is down-to-earth, the examples are concrete, the expectations raised are realistic.  There are suggestions for Further Reading at the end of every section and there is a comprehensive bibliography at the end.

The basic framework is from the 2005 Millenium Assessments, identifying “ecosystem services.”  A 6-step approach is described which one can imagine being led by an environmental team within municipal government that reaches out to other departments and the public — all stakeholders.  The steps range from specifying and agreeing on the problem or policy issue with stakeholders, to assessment of the impact of the policy options on the range of stakeholders.

The Manual is not doctrinaire about its step-wise approach.  Figure 1 (p. 30 of the report) illustrates its flexibility.

Here is the report (4.6 MB).

The Table of contents is reproduced below.


Foreword and Acknowledgements i

Section 1: An introduction to ecosystem services and cities 1

1.1 The Value of Nature for Cities 1
1.2 Ecosystem services: definitions and examples 3
1.3 A focus on ecosystem services: helping cities to achieve their goals 6

Section 2: How to include ecosystem services in decision making and policy – The TEEB stepwise approach    11

Step 1: Specify and agree on the problem or policy issue with stakeholders 12
Step 2: Identify the most relevant ecosystem services that can help to solve the problem or policy issue 15
Step 3: Determine what information is needed and select assessment methods 20
Step 4: Assess (future changes in) ecosystem services 24
Step 5: Identify and compare management/policy options 26
Step 6: Assess the impacts of the policy options on the range of stakeholders 28

Section 3: Applying the TEEB stepwise approach within city management 31

3.1 Communicating to decision makers and other line functions 32
3.2 Budget cycle 33
3.3 Spatial planning 34
3.4 Concluding remarks 37

Glossary 38
References and bibliography 39


UPDATE — May 6, 2012

Getting to Carbon Neutral — A Guide for Canadian Municipalities

Ann Coffey reports:

“… after reading [the] email about Messrs. Hubley and Scott who questioned why measuring Green House Gases was on the Environment Committee’s agenda, I sent the attached report — a carbon neutral guide for Canadian municipalities — to Diane Holmes. I said I thought it might help them understand the reasons why, and suggested to her that the city create a new standing committee to be called the Councillor Education Committee. Since I didn’t want to offend her I added that I would nominate her as chair.

Here is the report (1.9 MB) [n.d., but the file name suggests it is dated May 2010]. It was produced for Toronto & Region Conservation by the Sustainable Infrastructure Group at the University of Toronto. It “… strives to provide Canadian municipalities with a menu of options for greenhouse gas emission reductions, allowing a city to choose the combination of actions that are both feasible and most strategic for their specific circumstances”.

“The areas recommended for strategic action are:

1. Buildings
a. Retrofits of existing buildings for greater efficiency.
b. Stricter regulation for resource consumption in new buildings.

2. Land use and urban planning
a. Increased density.
b. Increased urban green spaces (parkland, urban tree canopy, green roofs).
c. Neighbourhood design that encourages active transportation (cycling and walking)

3. Transportation
a. Improve coverage of public transit infrastructure.
b. Inhibit personal automobile use in urban areas (tolls, restricted parking, traffic calming mechanisms).
c. Encourage adoption of electric or low-emission vehicles.

4. Energy Supply
a. Integrated community energy planning.
b. Harvest energy from municipal waste stream.
c. Increase renewable energy supply.

5. Efficiency and demand management
a. Increase efficiency of municipal services and buildings”.

If none of this appears new, the Guide does conclude that “there are indeed opportunities for municipalities to reduce their emissions dramatically, and that achieving carbon neutrality is possible in the Canadian municipal context. The report also notes that there are social, economic and environmental benefits to many of these projects beyond their climate change mitigation potential, further enhancing their value”.


UPDATE — April 13, 2014

Taking the economic benefits of greenspace into account

From Urban Climate., vol. 7 (2014), Special Issue on Urban Adaptation to Climate/Environmental Change, pp. 107-114:

Taking the economic benefits of green space into account: The story of the Dutch TEEB for Cities project” by Johan van Zoest & Marian Hopman.


As municipal management budgets for green space management are under pressure, there is an urgent need for new funding models for urban green space. Inspired by the TEEB study (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, 2010), it was hypothesized that the value of ecosystem services that urban green spaces provide, when monetized, will often be larger than the cost of management. This article describes an initiative to develop a tool that makes the financial benefits of green spaces visible in the municipal balance sheet. While the project was successful in producing the desired deliverables (a tool for inclusive finance for urban green spaces, eight in depth cases showing green spaces paying their way, a Community of Practice), it is recognized that the adoption of inclusive finance in municipalities depends critically on urban strategies that have efficiency and resilience at their core.


UPDATE – February 5, 2019

A colleague notes that a UN-sponsored program, Making Cities Resilient, was launched in 2009 and formally adopted by the General Assembly in 2015.  Its motto is “The way to building resilient cities is through mayors and local governments.”  Currently 4,236 cities around the world are active in some kind of role, among them ten Canadian cities including Calgary and several B.C. municipalities.  Here is its web site: