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Government review highlights economic value of nature

Bottlenose dolphins breaching

A fundamental change in how we think about and approach economics is needed if we are to reverse biodiversity loss and protect and enhance our prosperity, an independent, global review on the Economics of Biodiversity has revealed.

The Dasgupta Review is an independent, global assessment of the Economics of Biodiversity led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta (Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge). Commissioned last year by HM Treasury, it is supported by expert advisors from public policy, science, economics, finance and business sectors.

The review emphasises that when we protect nature, nature protects us and that by valuing natural capital as much as man-made capital we can reverse nature’s decline. In the UK alone, around 41% of UK species have declined since 1970. This is almost exclusively caused by human economic activity.

Reflecting on the findings of the report, WDC CEO, Chris Butler-Stroud is optimistic about how its findings can help speed up a change in our relationship with nature:

'I confess I don’t often get excited by        Treasury reports, but the Dasgupta Review is different.  It represents a radical departure from traditional economic thinking and sets out the costs of our collective failure to protect and value our most precious asset, Nature.  The report follows hot on the heels of similar messages from Mark Carney (the UN’s special envoy for climate action and finance), and Larry Fink (chairman of the world’s largest investment firm, Blackrock).

‘We should all welcome this ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion of the world’s captains of finance – the scale of the crises we face means we need to harness all the tools at humanity’s command to redress the damage we have done – but it also exposes a tension within the environmental movement.  Nature is priceless: putting a price tag on it seems bizarre, distasteful or even offensive to many.

‘There are good reasons to feel this way.  For centuries the Market has valued Nature for the short term profit that can be taken from it - a forest cut down for timber, a river dammed to make power, a whale rendered into barrels of oil.  The price tag has been based on extraction, on Death.

But what if we use the language of the Market to value Life, and all the ‘services’ that Nature provides us?  Clean air to breathe and water to drink, good soil to grow our crops in and insects to pollinate them, microbes to fight disease, fungi to recycle waste, and the Ocean and trees to soak up harmful greenhouse gases. The list is endless.

‘WDC has been testing some of these ideas with marine conservation stakeholders and over the past year, and exploring with businesses – large and small – new mechanisms for harnessing and pooling resources to invest in whale conservation and Ocean recovery.  Without exception, everyone we talk to wants to be part of the solution.  They see whales and dolphins as deserving of protection in their own right, but they are also excited about supporting them as part of an ‘ocean-based solution’ to the climate and nature emergencies.  They see this as an area where ‘value meets values.

‘Faced with the scale of mass extinctions and climate breakdown it is hard for any of us not to feel a creeping sense of despair.  But there is hope - if we all learn to work together, and to work with nature not against it.’

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