A British commissioned report on the economics of biodiversity has called on world governments to enact policies advocating for a drift from massive assault on nature to a more humane treatment of the environment.
The report, The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review, notes that humans, together with the livestock they rear for food, constitute 96 per cent of the mass of all mammals on the planet but a continuous ruthless onslaught on the life of other animals and plants is endangering the life of all living things.
“We are destroying biodiversity, the very characteristic that until recently enabled the natural world to flourish so abundantly. If we continue this damage, whole ecosystems will collapse. That is now a real risk,” the survey commissioned by the United Kingdom Treasury in March 2019 says.
Speaking during a global conservation webinar, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Africa Director Dr Philip Osano, underscored the strong connection between culture and biodiversity in Africa, noting that “this policy dialogue on the economics of biodiversity is being held on the occasion of the celebration of the Africa Day, whose theme this year is on African cultural renaissance.”
Economics of biodiversity
Emphasizing that "the economics of biodiversity is the economics of the entire biosphere," Prof Partha Dasgupta who led the research asked nations to keep in mind that they are embedded in nature.
He said the report was prompted by a growing body of evidence that in recent decades humanity had been degrading the planet's most precious asset, nature, at rates far greater than ever seen before.
“In the process of getting to where we are, though, we have degraded the biosphere to the point where the demands we make of its goods and services far exceed its ability to meet them on a sustainable basis,” he stated.
The report’s implications for Africa were the focus of the panel’s sessions, co-organised with SEI, African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Kingdom Treasury.
In a conversation between Prof Dasgupta and African Development Bank President Dr Akinwumi Adesina, the need to change approaches, actions, and measure of success in mainstreaming biodiversity in economics and finding a balance between “what humanity takes from nature, and what we leave behind for our descendants” became the focal point.
“The responsibility to protect nature is a global, shared one. Biodiversity is a combination of assets. Nature is central in every decision,” Prof. Dasgupta added.
Dr Adesina said: “We need to price what we value better, if we value natural capital. If we value biodiversity, we value ecosystems, then let’s make sure that the accounting price we put on biodiversity gives an incentive for its preservation.”
Africa, which contributes the least to global emissions, bears the brunt of the negative effects of climate change. Mr Adesina said the added burden of the novel coronavirus pandemic means that countries have even less resources for biodiversity initiatives and to adapt to climate change.
The review notes that it would be ominous for the current generation’s descendants to suffer the hazards of the effects of environmental degradation and climate change.
To judge whether the path of economic development that nations choose to follow is sustainable, the study says, governments need to adopt a system of economic accountability that records an inclusive measure of their wealth where nature should be an asset.
“Putting things right will take collaborative action by every nation on earth. It will require international agreements to change our ways. Each ecosystem has its own vulnerabilities and requires its own solutions. There has to be a universally shared understanding of how these systems work, and how those that have been damaged can be brought back to health.”
One suggestion was that multilateral development banks like the African Development Bank could play a greater role in financing and developing a financial system that channels financial investments – public and private – towards economic activities that enhance the stock of natural assets and encourage sustainable consumption and production activities.
Combat illegal poaching
Amb Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission, outlined the many initiatives and programs that the Commission is already supporting to combat illegal poaching, conserve wildlife and the preservation of wild flora and fauna.
These initiatives include a regional cooperation framework on advancing the biodiversity economy, that could see transformation of raw materials and the enhancement of value chains, as well as scaled up investment in the sustainable utilisation of biological resources as part of Africa’s progress.
As part of the post Covid-19 response actions, the African Union has set up the African Green Stimulus Program, which it said addresses biodiversity conservation, combats illegal wildlife trade, and revitalises ecotourism.
“The African Union counts the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the AfDB among its top champions,” Ms Sacko said.
The African Development Bank has a growing portfolio of initiatives focused on natural capital and biodiversity which are being channeled through its integrated approach to supporting a green and sustainable recovery from Covid-19 in Africa.
Strong business case
Dr Kevin Chika Urama, Senior Director of the African Development Bank’s African Development Institute, commended the Dasgupta Review for the strong business case that it makes for realigning investments and decision-making to integrate the values provided by nature.
Dr Åsa Persson, Research Director and Deputy Director at SEI, emphasised the role and duty of SEI to support policy recommendations with “evidence and data” before they reached the negotiating tables and treasury departments of governments.
Sandy Sheard, Deputy Director with the UK Treasury, said she hoped the report would spur new and ambitious commitments. Her important takeaways were the importance of science and data; doing things differently with what we already have and walking the talk.
“The solution at one level is really simple... nature is our home and economics means that we manage it better,” she said.