Published 2 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
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The UK Government commissioned an independent, global Review on the Economics of
Biodiversity in Spring 2019. The report urges policymakers to start valuing ecosystems and says GDP encourages unsustainable growth.
Businesses and governments around the world will have to rethink economic growth
as a measure of success if they want to make good on pledges to stop the
destruction of the natural world, according to a UK government-backed report
Commissioned by the UK government in 2019, the Review on The Economics of Biodiversity — led by University of Cambridge economist
Professor Sir Partha
Dasgupta — lays out key
recommendations for reversing manmade declines in biodiversity that are
undermining the productivity, resilience and adaptability of our natural world. It
warns that this historic decline has placed economies and livelihoods at risk.
The study supports the assertions that environmental groups have been making for
decades — that humanity has mismanaged its natural assets, and our demands on
nature now far exceed its capacity to supply resources and vital services. The
Review calls for the expanding and improvement of protected areas, increased
investment into nature-based solutions, the creation or improvement of policies
to eliminate damaging consumption of natural assets, and the incorporation of
and proper valuation of ecosystem
into all national accounting systems.
“This year is critical in determining whether we can stop and reverse the
concerning trend of fast-declining biodiversity,” said UK Prime Minister Boris
Johnson. “I welcome Professor Dasgupta’s Review, which makes clear that
protecting and enhancing nature needs more than good intentions — it requires
concerted, co-ordinated action.
“As co-host of COP26 and president of this year’s
G7, we are going to make sure the natural world stays right at the top of
the global agenda. And we will be leading by example here at home as we build
back greener from the pandemic through my Ten-Point
The Review also calls for ending the use of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in
favor of different metrics that would embed natural resources into today’s
economic accounting, as part of a shift towards a more accurate and inclusive
measure of wealth.
“Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognising that our
long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature’s goods and
services with its capacity to supply them,” Dasgupta says. “It also means
accounting fully for the impact of our interactions with nature across all
levels of society. COVID-19 has shown us what can happen when we don’t do this.
Nature is our home. Good economics demands we manage it better.”
The critical role of biodiversity in the longevity of life as we know it has
been on the business world’s radar for the past few years — and has spawned a
flurry of ambitious and promising efforts to help us course correct at scale. In
2017, the Natural Capital Impact Group developed a “healthy ecosystem
— based on the impact of a company on the quality and quantity of biodiversity,
soil and water — designed to aid in business decision-making. In 2019, a group of
conservation scientists, NGOs and indigenous leaders urged governments to adopt
a “Global Deal for
to tackle the interlinked crises of biodiversity loss and climate change;
Adobe and Pantone joined forces on a “Glowing, Glowing,
campaign highlighting the global danger signaled by fluorescing coral reefs; and
a diverse group of influential international organizations launched a coalition
called Business for
at ensuring that a clear understanding of the relationship between nature,
people and economies became integrated into all economic sectors, and at all
levels of decision-making — a need echoed in the Dasgupta report.
A country’s GDP has long been debunked as a measure of human welfare — as it is
merely a measure of the size of its economy, not an indicator of its
wellbeing. Several alternatives to GDP have been put forward over the years as
better alternatives for assessing welfare. They include the Index of
Sustainable Economic Welfare,
the Genuine Progress Indicator, Gross
National Happiness, the Human
and the Comprehensive Net National Product, among
others. These methodologies either (a) also quantify the size of economies in
their own ways, or (b) do not quantify the size of economies at all and instead
rate or rank them in their own fashion.
In 2017, Center for Sustainable
Organizations founder Mark
McElroy proposed a new way of measuring and reporting the performance of whole
economies called Aggregate Capital
(ACS) — an extension of multicapitalism, a new form of capitalism that
interprets economic performance in terms of impacts on all vital capitals
(natural, human, social, etc) and not just one of them (economic). ACS enables
us to measure and report the sustainability of an economy, not just its size
or its inhabitants’ well-being.
In 2020, WWF projected a US$10T hit to the global economy by
if global biodiversity loss remained unchecked. In the past year, global
have embedded commitments to preserve or restore biodiversity into their
sustainability strategies — but governments need to embrace this way of thinking
for the necessary changes to take hold.
Published Feb 2, 2021 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET