‘Recognize Nature As An Asset’: Landmark Report Highlights Economic Importance Of Planet

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A landmark review by Professor Partha Dasgupta at the University of Cambridge calls for transformational change in the way the world thinks, acts, and measures economic success to nature by protecting and enhancing the prosperity of the natural world, while recognizing the role it plays in the world of economics.

Commissioned by the UK Treasury in 2019, the Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity is the first time a national finance ministry has authorised a full assessment of the economic importance of nature. With an in-depth understanding of ecosystem processes and how they are affected by economic activity, the framework presented by the review lays out how we can economically work in tandem with nature.

Led by Prof Dasgupta, the review is the result of an 18-month independent global assessment on the economics of biodiversity with the report highlighting the need for recognising nature as an asset and reconsidering our standards of economic prosperity with the idea that sustainable economic growth needs a different measure other than Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In his review, Prof Dasgupta stresses on how prosperity has come at a ‘devastating’ cost to the natural world. “Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognising that our long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature’s goods and services with its capacity to supply them. It also means accounting fully for the impact of our interactions with nature across all levels of society. Nature is our home. Good economics demands we manage it better.”

Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognising that our long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature’s goods and services with its capacity to supply them. It also means accounting fully for the impact of our interactions with nature across all levels of society

Professor Partha Dasgupta

Dasgupta Review Recommendations

  • Making food and energy systems sustainable through technological innovations and policies that change prices and behavioural norms
  • Investing in programmes that provide community-based family planning
  • Expanding and improving access to protected areas
  • Implementing large-scale and widespread investment in nature-based solutions to address biodiversity loss
  • Introducing natural capital into national accounting systems
Source: Jason Ortego/Unsplash

Welcoming the review, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We are going to make sure the natural world stays right at the top of the global agenda.”

The review comes at a significant moment, with the UK co-hosting COP26 – this year’s UN climate meeting along with holding the presidency of this year’s G7 in November. The report could also be crucial in setting the agenda on government policy in the near future.

Sir David Attenborough, who wrote the foreword to the review, mentioned that we will be saving ourselves if we understand the importance of nature. “This comprehensive and immensely important report shows us how, by bringing economics and ecology face-to-face, we can help to save the natural world and, in doing so, save ourselves.”

Another highlight from the 600-page review shows that losses in biodiversity are lessening the overall productivity, resilience, and adaptability of nature that is in turn putting economies, livelihoods and well-being at huge risks.

We are going to make sure the natural world stays right at the top of the global agenda

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of The U.K

Jennifer Morris, of conservation non-profit The Nature Conservancy, described the review as a much needed call to world leaders.”We must tackle the nature crisis in conjunction with the climate emergency for the sake of our economies, livelihoods, and wellbeing – and those of future generations.”

Prof Andy Purvis from the Department of Life Sciences at Natural History Museum mentioned that the year 2020 couldn’t have made it any clearer that we simply have to change our relationship with nature. “Because nature doesn’t feature in traditional economic thinking, the world’s economies have been running nature down – mining nature rather than managing it – to boost growth in GDP. Our relationship with nature has become increasingly abusive.”

Additionally, the report found that countries currently spend US$4 trillion to US$6 trillion every year on subsidies that damage nature. Also, in the past three decades, the global capital produced by each person has doubled even though the stock of natural capital or services provided by nature has fallen by 40%.

Prof Nicola Beaumont, Head of Science: Sea and Society, at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, explained that while most people would agree that biodiversity is important, they may not understand why exactly it is important, as it is perceived as an intangible asset. “The result is that when tough trade-offs have to be made, for example between development and conserving biodiversity, the more obviously and immediately rewarding development option has tended to take priority.  The outcome of this is the dramatic decline in biodiversity which we have observed over recent decades. The Dasgupta Review will be key in lifting the importance of biodiversity onto a level playing field with other options, in making this intangible into something tangible.”

HM Treasury will examine the review’s findings and respond formally in due course.

Last week, a new scientific paper warned the world that unless drastic action is taken to reverse climate change and ecological degradation, our ‘entire biosphere and all its lifeforms’ can come under threat, including our very own existence. 

In January, the University of Oxford led a research paper that listed four key steps that every individual can employ to help reduce our footprint on the planet and help save our biodiversity. The experts outlined ‘4Rs’ – refrain, reduce, restore and renew – to change our behaviour and relationship with nature.


Lead image courtesy of v2osk/Unsplash.

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