“As the British naturalist, Charles Darwin, once said, “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Time is against us. Life in all its forms is so precious. Without biodiversity we have nothing. Financial sectors worldwide have to take a lead from this vital report and invest in natural wealth, which ultimately will determine our own health.”
There have been many reactions to the brilliant final report of the Independent Review on the Economics of Biodiversity led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta and commissioned by the British Government. It was this reaction from 15-year-old conservationist Indy Kiemel Greene, invoking Charles Darwin no less, that caught my attention. Of course, it is welcome news that the great and the good from world banks and boardrooms around the world have seen and reacted to this report – they hold the levers of power that need to move to deliver the transition that Sir Dasgupta calls for, but it is this quote that emphasises the urgency of the problem and how quickly a solution needs to come. We have no time to waste!
Launched today, the Dasgupta Review seeks to understand the economics of biodiversity and to apply a value to our natural systems, so that our impact on them can be better accounted for by markets and the real economy. The timing of the report would have coincided with the upcoming COP15 on Biodiversity in China – this event is now delayed until later this year, and may be delayed further – but the report wasn’t delayed; and thankfully so, because if there is one message that Sir Gasgupta has for us all it is that we have to change and change quickly.
One of the headline statistics which shows the scale of the problem that we must all address is that between 1992 and 2014, produced capital per person doubled, and human capital per person increased by about 13% globally; but the stock of natural capital per person declined by nearly 40%. Our natural resources are straining under the weight of humanities demands and could soon reach a breaking point. If that happens then we must be under no illusion the impact will fall hardest on humanity.
The main recommendations of the report fall within three areas of change or transition:
(i) Ensure that our demands on Nature do not exceed its supply and that we increase Nature’s supply relative to its current level.
(ii) Change our measures of economic success to guide us on a more sustainable path.
(iii) Transform our institutions and systems – in particular, our finance and education systems – to enable these changes and sustain them for future generations.
It remains to be seen what the UK government will do with this review, The Environment Bill is still going through parliament and may provide an opportunity for amendments to be added to reflect the review, but perhaps also a few amendments will not be nearly enough to deliver the systemic change that is prescribed. As the recently launched Race to Resilience campaign from the UNFCCC recognises we need “to catalyse a step-change in global ambition for climate resilience, putting people and nature first in pursuit of a resilient world where we don’t just survive climate shocks and stresses but thrive in spite of them.”
One thing that we as communicators representing large brands, businesses and institutions globally must remember is that biodiversity impacts need to be quickly understood and treated with the same urgency and severity of risk as climate change. In the year of COP26, we will all write a lot about the importance of this significant milestone to increase ambitions to tackle climate change. This is urgent and we must push for change, but we must not forget that the system of climate is intrinsically linked with Natural systems. The growth in focus by investors and boards on ESG on the measurement of impacts is welcome, but let’s not overlook nature in these assessments of risk.