On Wednesday the long awaited Dasgupta review on the economics of biodiversity was published. At over 600 pages its clear there’s a lot to be said on this topic, but here I give you a brief introduction to the report findings- this is your five-minute summary of the very top lines.
Nature’s declining faster than ever. Many ecosystems are degraded beyond repair or at tipping points. The costs of ecosystem repair and replacement increase with delays, as does our exposure to economic and wellbeing risks and uncertainty.
Nature is not external to any economy and its exploitation exposes us to risks with vast impacts. Scarily the report states that Covid-19 could be the tip of the iceberg.
Markets have failed to account for the value of nature and institutions have ignored nature as an externality, in some cases inadvertently funding its destruction. Arrangements are needed to protect globally important public goods such as rainforests and oceans and COP15 and COP26 are important opportunities to develop this.
To address these issues three broad areas for change, requiring collaboration and commitment at all levels, have been highlighted:
1. Demands on nature need to be scaled back in line with supply. The Earth overshoot day that feels alarmingly early each year needs pushing back by increasing sustainability of production, decreasing consumption, and improving and expanding habitats.
Specific areas mentioned are; precision agriculture, integrated pest management, molecular breeding techniques, decarbonising energy systems, and enforcing standards for re-use, recycling and sharing. Controversially the report raises growing human populations and fertility choices. It also supports Nature-Based Solutions to address biodiversity loss and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
2. We need a new economic success measure. Gross Domestic Product as a metric isn’t cutting it anymore. It’s masked the true cost of economic growth by reporting only on money and ignoring flows of natural stocks. The review suggests that whilst GDP is useful for short-run macroeconomic analysis and management we need to include natural capital in national accounting systems.
3. We need systems change to channel finance towards natural assets and ensure sustainability, particularly in finance and education.
Policies and funding structures at all levels need to be working for not against ecosystems. Setting up information flows that allow collaboration are really important, to help this the report states that global standards to integrate nature related considerations are needed.
Supra-national institutional agreements where ecosystems cross or lie outside of national boundaries are identified as important in the protection of the world’s most valuable ecosystems. The report also asserts the need to pay for ecosystems protection where they lie within a nation and restrict access where they don’t.
However even with all that said the report brings responsibility back down to an individual level stating that we need everyone to be educated on and connected to nature and to make empowered sustainable choices. Proof that no matter how unimportant you think your actions are, you hold a share of an awesome collective power that is recognised and shouldn’t be underestimated.
The Prime Minister, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and Environment Secretary have all welcomed the report, but the question now is whether the Dasgupta review will do for ecology what the Stern review did for climate. With COP15 and COP26 this year, lets hope talk of leading by example develops into the concerted, co-ordinated action Boris Johnson recognises the need for.
Sarah Anderton - Policy Adviser, CIWEM
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