The current turmoil in the financial markets makes it more relevant than ever to debate the roles of the state, the public and the private sector in protecting our natural world. Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are the true foundation of all economies, yet they are under attack by the same economic forces that ultimately depend upon them.
A special event sponsored by IUCN’s Director General explored the issues around ‘mainstreaming’ biodiversity and ecosystem values in economics, markets and business. Panelists included Tom Albanese, Chief Executive of mining giant Rio Tinto, Jochen Flasbarth of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment and Georgina Mace, Professor of Conservation Science at Imperial College London.
A global study The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) provides compelling evidence of the economic and human welfare impacts resulting from the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation. It has highlighted the relationships between biodiversity loss and poverty, as well as the ethical issues related to environmental risk and uncertainty, and how we assess future costs and benefits. It has also identified examples of recent efforts to reform economic policies and to achieve ‘win-win’ solutions for biodiversity conservation and economic growth.
Pavan Sukhdev, leader of the TEEB study gave the keynote presentation. Key issues to emerge as the report enters its second phase are how to set in place measures that allow the global economy to start to account for the costs of biodiversity loss as well as reward the benefits that nature provides. Our measures of economic progress must be updated to reflect the role of human and natural capital in sustainable development, and to ensure that the costs and benefits of conserving nature are more fairly distributed.
The challenge is not only to measure the values of biodiversity but to present these values in a way that is useful—useful to policy-makers who need to make decisions on natural resource use, corporations who need to know their footprint on ecosystems, and consumers to understand their impact on natural resources.