The UK Treasury’s Dasgupta Review makes the case for nature

Tuesday 2nd February

N4C applauds the UK Government for publishing The Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity. It cites that economies can only function by mainstreaming nature into all our decision-making, exploring the full extent of nature’s contribution to our global economies, livelihoods and wellbeing. The Dasgupta Review concludes that nature’s services are essential to functioning societies. It also represents the first time that a national finance ministry has sponsored a full assessment of nature’s economic importance.

As policymakers look ahead to the critical UN Biodiversity Conference COP15 in Kunming, China, closely followed by the equally crucial UN Climate Change Summit (COP26) in Glasgow in late 2021, Professor Dasgupta’s review shows how and why policymakers, financiers and corporations must work in urgent lockstep to improve nature’s ability to sustainably supply the goods and services humanity relies on; revisit how we define wealth with new metrics and look at the real cost of products and services once we build in their true cost to the climate and nature.

The review widely condemns humanity’s inability to engage with nature sustainably, as our demand far exceeds its capacity as well as deep rooted institutional failure. The solution lies in understanding and accepting a simple truth: our economies are embedded within nature, not external to it. We also need to change how we think, act and measure success.

Among a range of valuable contributions, N4C acknowledges the review’s conclusion that nature-based solutions would help address biodiversity loss and significantly contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as provide wider economic benefits, including creating jobs. As the authors state, “As part of fiscal stimulus packages in the wake of COVID-19, investment in natural capital has the potential for quick returns. Moreover, natural capital forms the bulk of wealth in low income countries, and those on low incomes tend to rely more directly on nature. And so conserving and restoring our natural assets also contributes to alleviating poverty.”

 

This mirrors the findings of N4C’s ‘Nature-Positive Recovery report released last summer, which put forward three key principles for political leadership:

  1. Do no harm: stimulus packages must not drive further unsustainable land-use changes, increase CO2 emissions or contribute to further environmental degradation.
  2. Properly value the full range of benefits that natural ecosystems offer, and the role they play in building sustainable economies and communities.
  3. Appreciate the direct economic contribution of certain nature-based solutions, which of course have the added value of a full range of other benefits.

We are very encouraged to see more and more leaders beginning to endorse these key tenants of a nature-positive recovery. More than 80 countries have already signed the Leaders Pledge for Nature, along with 50 countries which committed to preserving 30% of land and ocean. And, just last week, among the range of climate-related executive orders, President Biden called for the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps “to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate.”

This echoes the news coming out of Pakistan, where the country’s stimulus has focused on a nature-based recovery by protecting nature and provide green jobs in an effort to plant 10 billion trees. The country is also working to expand its protected area initiative to develop 15 model Protected Areas across the country while creating 5,500 jobs.

There is still a very long way to go. In December, analysis by Vivid Economics and the Finance4Biodiversity initiative found that governments have pumped an estimated $13 trillion of public stimulus into the world’s economies so far, with a net positive environmental impact in only seven of the 25 countries. Their research suggests that allocating just 5% of the total stimulus to date to nature-based solutions – such as tree planting, agroforestry, regenerative agriculture and the restoration of wetlands, peatland and mangroves – could create seven million more jobs globally, compared with a reference business-as-usual stimulus.

N4C hopes that the fact that this analysis was released during a global health crisis, in part caused by nature’s destruction may serve as a wake-up call to mobilize financial flows and political will in the right direction to create a nature-positive economy benefitting climate stability, the natural world and of course, people. N4C urges governments to now place nature at the heart of post-COVID recovery plans without delay.

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