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What Would You Pay to Save the Amazon?

An article in the Washington Post mused about the findings of World Bank researchers on the Willingness to Pay (WTP) to protect the Amazon rainforest using Contingent Valuation interviews with European experts ("What’s the Amazon jungle worth? $36 a year per family, ‘oracles’ tell the World Bank"). It concluded on a light note: "Anyone want to bid on a glacier? Or Miley Cyrus?"

Joke aside, the results were quite interesting. They showed that European households were ready to pay an average of US$ 46/year to keep 85% of original forest protected and US$ 36/ year to keep 75% of original forest protected. These results are congruent with other WTP surveys done in the past (Horton et al  2003) which estimated that European households would be willing to pay more than US$ 11 billion for the Amazon rainforest.

To judge whether that amount is high or low, it's useful to do a little arithmetic on the valuation of ecosystem services of the Amazon. This calculation would take into account:

  • The size of the Amazon rainforest:  300 million ha (Navrud, Strand 2013)
  • The average value of rainforest ecosystem services: US$ 2,000/ha/year (de Groot et al 2012 and Costanza et al 1997)

Thus, the total value the Amazon rainforest ecosystem services is estimated at 600 billion US$/year, or more than 50 times what Europeans are willing to pay. If the whole world population pitched in at the same level, the value of the Amazon's services would still be about four times what we are collectively willing to pay.

Nga Phuong Nguyen

This blog was submitted by Nga Phuong Nguyen, Junior Professional Associate with the World Bank's forest team.

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