Economic policy

Global economic policy neglects enormous value of nature, warn UN experts

Policymakers do not adequately integrate and value the role of nature in their decision-making, with the pursuit of short-term profits and economic growth all too often coming at the expense of biodiversity and ecosystem services that are essential for the long-term prospects of humanity.

That is the sobering conclusion of major new research conducted today by UN science and policy experts, who argue that how nature is valued in political and economic decisions is both a key driver of the global biodiversity crisis, as well as a “vital” opportunity for reforms that could help accelerate sustainable development globally.

Approved on Saturday by representatives of the 139 member countries of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the report draws on more than 13,000 studies and resources to assess how nature and ecosystem services provided by biodiversity and ecosystems are valued in economic and political decision-making.

It builds on a landmark IPBES report in 2019 which identified the role of economic growth as a key driver of nature loss, estimating that one million species of plants and animals are now threatened with extinction, all of which play a crucial role in the overall development of the planet. life support system.

“Biodiversity is disappearing and nature’s contributions to people are degrading faster now than at any other time in human history,” said Ana María Hernández Salgar, President of IPBES. “This is largely because our current approach to political and economic decisions does not sufficiently take into account the diversity of nature’s values.”

This follows separate IPBES research published on Friday, which estimates that billions of people in developed and developing countries benefit every day from the use of wild species for food, energy, materials , medicine, recreation and other vital societal and economic services.

About 20% of the world’s population depends on wildlife for food and income, and around 2.4 billion – a third of the world’s population – depend on firewood for cooking, he estimates. Yet he warns that these essential services are all under threat from the biodiversity crisis, with one billion species of plants and animals currently at risk of extinction.

“70% of the world’s poor depend directly on wildlife,” explained Dr. Marla R. Emery, who co-chaired Friday’s IPBES assessment. “One in five people depend on wild plants, algae and fungi for their food and income; 2.4 billion depend on firewood for cooking; and about 90% of the 120 million people working in capture fisheries live from small-scale fishing. But the regular use of wild species is extremely important not only in the countries of the South. From the fish we eat to medicines, cosmetics, decoration and hobbies, the use of wildlife is much more widespread than most people realize.

In the meantime, today’s report warns that economic and political decisions continue to minimize the value of nature – particularly through market-based instruments, such as those associated with intensive food production – which , according to him, do not adequately reflect how changes in nature affect people’s lives and long-term economic prospects.

Moreover, he argues that policy-making too often overlooks the many non-market values ​​associated with nature’s contributions to people, such as regulating the planet’s climate and associations with cultural identity. As such, political and economic decisions made around the world fail to incorporate nature’s enormous contributions to society and prosperity, he warns.

The number of studies that seek to place a value on nature has grown by an average of more than 10% per year over the past four decades, but the report warns that governments’ and businesses’ understanding of ecosystem services remains well under way. below the required level. to reverse the huge loss of biodiversity the planet is currently facing.

As such, the report presents a series of recommendations to help policymakers better integrate the nature and value of the services it provides into their decision-making, including recognizing the wide range of values ​​that nature provides to an economy, by reforming policies and regulations to integrate the valuing of nature into decision-making and a better alignment of targets with global goals of sustainability and social justice.

Professor Unai Pascual, who co-chaired the IPBES assessment, said there was “no shortage of means and tools to make the values ​​of nature visible”.

“What is missing is the use of valuation methods to address power asymmetries between stakeholders and to seamlessly integrate the diverse values ​​of nature into policy-making,” he said. -he declares.

The latest research from IPBES comes as the world prepares for the crucial conclusion of the United Nations COP15 Biodiversity Summit in Montreal later this year, which aims to finalize a global treaty to combat biodiversity loss and reverse the trend.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), welcomed the IPBES research findings, stressing that “nature, in all its diversity, is humanity’s greatest asset. could ever ask”, but that its value was too often overlooked in decision-making.

“Nature’s survival system has become an externality that doesn’t even show up on the ledger sheet – and so it’s lost in the pursuit of short-term profit,” she said. “If we don’t value nature and factor it into decision-making, it will continue to be lost. And that can only be bad news for humanity.”

Today’s report comes with separate calls for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to better integrate nature-related risks, such as biodiversity loss, into its sustainability analysis framework. (DSA), amid concerns about the agency’s lack of robust oversight of potentially significant economic and financial risks.

A study published today by Finance for Biodiversity and the SOAS Center for Sustainable Finance warns that the IMF risks ignoring major nature-related risks, which they say could have disastrous consequences for the viability of biodiversity. debt of developing countries.

Simon Zadek, president of Finance for Biodiversity, said that while the IMF was now integrating climate risks into its DSA frameworks, it was equally important to do the same for nature loss risks.

“This study demonstrates the disastrous consequences that partial nature collapse can have on countries’ public finances and the imminent need to integrate the risks of nature destruction into the IMF’s macroeconomic and financial assessments,” he said. -he declares. “Sovereign bond markets can provide solutions to reduce these risks and increase countries’ resilience to the biodiversity crisis by advancing rapid and radical innovation in nature-related sovereign debt instruments.