The Value of Nature
What is the true cost of destroying biodiversity?
How do we value nature?
Biodiversity is key to securing a sustainable future. By protecting our precious assets of plants, animals and microorganisms, we can keep our precious ecosystems intact and operate within Earth’s planetary boundaries. Yet in the Decade of Biodiversity, we find ourselves at crisis point and two new UN reports highlight the need for a fresh approach.
Assessment Report on the Diverse Values and Valuation of Nature
The truth is that we cannot protect our environment without understanding its worth. On Saturday, 139 member States of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), approved the UN’s latest Assessment Report on the Diverse Values and Valuation of Nature. It sets out the harsh realities of our biodiversity crisis and calls on economic and political decision makers to reassess how they value the natural environment.
The four-year methodological assessment by 82 top scientists and experts claims that our planet’s future is being compromised by decisions based on a narrow set of market values of nature. A global focus on short term profits and economic growth is often excluding considerations of nature when determining policy. This blinkered decision-making overlooks how changes in nature affect people and planet.
The study provides policymakers with a comprehensive typology to better understand how people interact with and value nature. It presents four perspectives:
- Living from nature – emphasising nature’s capacity to provide resources for sustaining livelihoods, needs and wants of people, such as food and material goods.
- Living with nature – Respecting the rights of life that is not human, such as the intrinsic right of fish in a river to thrive independently of human needs.
- Living in nature – Referring to the importance of nature as the setting for people’s sense of place and identity.
- Living as nature – Seeing the natural world as a physical, mental and spiritual part of oneself.
The report attempts to shift the focus towards the multiple values of nature as a way of reframing the argument. It comes at a critical time. Later this year the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity are expected to agree a new global biodiversity framework for the next decade and value-centred decision making will be key to meeting its goals.
For too long, economic growth has come at the cost of environmental degradation. According to the 2019 IPBES Global Assessment, 1 million species of plants and animals now at risk of extinction. Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions.
Nature sustains us. Human survival depends on rich ecosystems, be it the food we eat, the air we breathe, the energy and materials we consume, or the medicines that keep us healthy. The IPBES has also released an Assessment Report on the Sustainable Use of Wild Species to highlight how we must make sustainable use of natural resources.
50,000 wild species meet the needs of billions of people worldwide. For example, 10,000 known wild species are harvested for human food and one in three people need firewood for cooking.
The report offers much needed insight, analysis and tools to make more sustainable use of wild species of plants, animals, fungi and algae. It identifies five broad categories of practices in the use of wild species: fishing; gathering; logging; terrestrial animal harvesting (including hunting); and non-extractive practices, such as observing. It examines how each of these is used and highlights the need for more sustainable solutions to avoid accelerated biodiversity loss. It identifies seven elements that can promote sustainable use of wild species:
- Policy options that are inclusive and participatory
- Policy options that recognise and support multiple forms of knowledge
- Policy instruments and tools that ensure fair and equitable distribution of costs and benefits
- Context-specific policies
- Monitoring of wild species and practices
- Policy instruments that are aligned at international, national, regional and local levels; maintain coherence and consistency with international obligations and take into account customary rules and norms
- Robust institutions, including customary institutions
The study provides valuable insight into how humans can more sustainably use resources from ecosystems, drawing on more than 6,200 sources, around 200 contributing authors and holders of Indigenous and local knowledge,
When people think about biodiversity, they often focus on the loss of exotic species in far flung lands. Yet the crisis is on our own doorstep. According to the 2019 State of Nature report 41% of UK species have declined since the 1970s and one in seven species are threatened with extinction. One in five plants are classified as being at risk of extinction, along with 15% of fungi and lichens, 40% of vertebrates and 12% of invertebrates.
Addressing over-exploitation is now mission critical and it is the responsibility of governments, businesses and consumers to meet the challenge. At Wylde Connections we are committed to help balance the needs of people, profit and planet. Talk to us about how we can help you protect biodiversity and take the next step in your sustainability journey.
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