Biodiversity review calls for new metrics for economic success

2nd February 2021


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Author

Paul Burkholder

The world must adopt new metrics for economic success that account for the benefits of investing in nature, an independent review on global biodiversity has concluded today.

The Dasgupta Review – commissioned by the UK government – argues that nature is currently a “blind spot” in economics, and that humanity has collectively “mismanaged its global portfolio of assets”.

It highlights how demands on nature far exceed supply, and states that the introduction of natural capital into national accounting systems is a “critical step” in transforming how wealth is measured globally.

Led by University of Cambridge economics professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, the landmark review provides a framework for accounting for nature, and makes clear that urgent change now would be significantly less costly than delay.

“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,” Sir Partha said.

“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 review argues that nature is the world's “most precious asset”, and that significant declines in biodiversity are undermining productivity, resilience and adaptability, threatening economies, livelihoods and well-being.

A new economic framework should move towards an inclusive measure of wealth that accounts for the benefits of investing in natural assets, and helps make clear the trade-offs between investments in different assets.

The review also states that humanity must ensure its demands on nature do not exceed its sustainable supply, and must increase the global supply of natural assets relative to their current level.

This could be done through expanding and improving management of protected areas, increasing investment in nature-based solutions, and deploying policies that discourage damaging forms of consumption and production.

Moreover, the report suggests that institutions and systems be transformed – particularly finance and education – to sustain them for future generations. For example, by increasing public and private financial flows to natural assets, and firmly embedding nature in education policy.

IEMA chief executive, Sarah Mukherjee, said: “Evidence for the disruption to our natural world is all around us, reinforced by the findings of a multitude of substantive reports and compellingly revealed in Sir David Attenborough’s Perfect Planet.

“The costs of destruction, economically and morally, are too great to bear and the benefits of a establishing a new economic framework that enables us to live in harmony with the natural world are becoming increasingly clear.

“Sir Partha’s review into the economics of biodiversity has the opportunity to reframe economic policy and should trigger urgent action. IEMA members are at the heart of a transition to a more sustainable, zero-carbon economy; Sir Partha’s review is more powerful evidence of how vital this transition is.”

Image credit: iStock

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