Mainstreaming Ecosystem Services in European Policy Impact Assessment

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Helming K./Diehl K./Geneletti D./Wiggering H. (2013), Mainstreaming Ecosystem Services in European Policy Impact Assessment. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 40(2013), pp. 82-87.



The concept of ecosystem services as developed for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) is currently the most extensive, international, scientific concept dealing with the interaction between the world's ecosystems and human well-being. The fundamental asset is seen in the relevancy of the concept at the science-policy interface. Albeit, the mainstreaming of ecosystem services into policy making requires a framework that allows the transition of the scientific concept into the rationale of policy making. We hypothesize that the procedure of policy impact assessment is a suitable venue for this transition. This brings up two questions:

  1. Where in the process of policy impact assessment can ecosystem services be mainstreamed?
  2. How can the impact on ecosystem services properly be accounted for?

In this paper we distinguish two groups of policy cases: explicit cases directly addressing ecosystem services, and implicit cases of policies that follow other purposes but may have unintended impacts on ecosystem services as a side effect. The second group covers a wide range of policies for which we set out a framework for mainstreaming of ecosystem services. The framework is exemplary designed for the instrument of ex-ante impact assessment at European policy making level. We reveal that the two concepts of the MA and of the European policy impact assessment are indeed compatible, which makes the integration of the ecosystem service concept possible. We conclude that the linkage of the scientifically validated concept of ecosystem services with the policy concept of impact assessment has the potential of improving the credibility of the latter.

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