Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

UN highlights economic value of biodiversity

The UNO has released its latest report on biodiversity, which points out that as we destroy the planet around is, killing off species, polluting water, cutting down forests and desecrating coral reefs, we are losing trillions of dollars.

42081.jpegThe destruction of the ecosystems which surround us is costing us a tremendous amount of money, according to the report by the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), a department working in the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), which concludes that the world has "to recognize the economic consequences of failing to halt loss of species as a result of habitat loss, pollution and excessive exploitation of ecosystems for financial gain".

The report was released yesterday in Nagoya, Japan, which is hosting the UN Convention on Biodiversity. Its findings should be enough to galvanise the more selfish members of our society, who may be more convinced by the trillion-dollar price tag than any desire to enjoy the biodiversity around us.

It claims that the social and economic costs of losing natural resources such as "forests, freshwater, soils and coral reefs" has e tremendous economic value. Pavan Sukhdev, director of the UNEP Green Economy Initiative, stated that "TEEB has documented not only the multi-trillion dollar importance to the global economy of the natural world, but the kinds of policy-shifts and smart market mechanisms that can embed fresh thinking in a world beset by a rising raft of multiple challenges".

What UNEP is now trying to do, is to convince countries to document the economic value of their natural resources, so as to be able to understand the potential of what surrounds them and therefore take nature into account when they make decisions.

Mr. Sukhdev speaks of "a new era" in which the value of natural resources is made transparent "and becomes an explicit part of policy and business decision-making". For Pavan Sukhdev, there is only one option: "Do nothing, and not only do we lose trillions worth of current and future benefits to society, we also further impoverish the poor and put future generations at risk".

And there are tremendous benefits to be gained by an environmentally friendly approach to development of infrastructures. Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, claims that it is now apparent that "nature's goods and services are equal, if not far more central, to the wealth of nations including the poor - a fact that will be increasingly the case on a planet of finite resources with a population set to rise to nine billion people by 2050".

Ecosystem services and non-marketed natural goods, according to the report, account for between 47 and 89 per cent of the GDP of the poor (the livelihoods of rural and forest-dwelling poor households) in many developing countries. Therefore conservation efforts have a direct result upon poverty reduction.

Not only should these policies be implemented in the countryside, but also, the cities have a critical and crucial role to play because over half the world's population lives in urban areas. By recognising and documenting the wealth available from the natural capital inside them, cities can contribute towards the well-being of their residents.

In concrete terms...

The report claims that "The UK-based consultancy, TruCost, estimated that the negative impacts, or 'environmental externalities', of the world's top 3,000 listed companies totals around US$ 2.2 trillion annually". Furthermore, according to analysts, by the year 2020, "the annual market size for certified agricultural products is expected to be US$210 billion; payments for water related ecosystem services US$6 billion; and voluntary biodiversity offsets in the region of US$100 million a year".

So surely it makes sense to start walking the walk?

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey