Posted April 22, 2020
Analysis: despite the value of the Irish coastal ecosystem, there is no coherent national investment policy for communities along the Wild Atlantic Way
Faced with reductions in local government operating expenditure and growing demands for environmental and climate-related actions, local authorities and the Office of Public Works are faced with difficult decisions about how to allocate funds to protect, conserve and restore our natural and built environments.
These planning decisions are typically justified made using cost-benefit analysis that relies on quantified market-based parameters. Usually property and infrastructure values for homes, farm buildings, agricultural land, roads and telecommunications are compared to test likely scenarios that may arise from funding decisions (e.g., economic benefits resulting from flood and erosion prevention schemes). Cost-benefit analysis models, however, do not effectively cater for "natural capital values". In the language of resource economics these values are known as ecosystem goods and services.
These goods and systems have many benefits. They provide direct benefits through recreation, social connection and well-being and through the prevention of damages that can inflict substantial costs on society. They also are the foundation for essential Irish economic activities such as coastal fisheries, soils and water.
A recent EPA technical study found that parts of the Irish coastal, marine and estuarine ecosystems are likely to have an economic value that will, perhaps significantly, exceed €3.58 billion per annum. This includes fisheries, aquaculture, genetic materials, water services, coastal defence, habitats, pest and disease control, climate regulation, recreational services, scientific and educational services, marine heritage and aesthetic services.