LONDON (AP) — A report commissioned by the British government is urging a radical transformation in the way that countries around the world assess the state of their economies by elevating the natural world as a key element in their economic planning.
The review of the economics of biodiversity by Professor Partha Dasgupta concludes that nature needs to become as valued as traditional gauges of economic wealth, such as profits, in the future.
In the 600-page review that was commissioned in 2019 by Britain’s Treasury, the University of Cambridge economist warned that current economic growth and prosperity have “come at a devastating cost to nature.” He said declines in biodiversity and the environment’s ability to provide food, clean water and air are “fueling extreme risk and uncertainty for our economies and well-being.”
The coronavirus pandemic and the associated economic calamity is just one illustration, he said, of what can happen when habitats are destroyed and species exploited.
“Nature is more than a mere economic good,” he said. “Nature nurtures and nourishes us, so we will think of assets as durable entities that not only have use value, but may also have intrinsic worth.”
Dasgupta called on the world to ensure demands on nature do not exceed sustainable supplies, by changing food production and consumption, investing in natural solutions such as restoring forests and protecting natural habitats. He said coordinated action now would in the long run be less costly and would also help tackle other issues, such as climate change and poverty,
Additionally, he pointed to a need to move away from using gross domestic product, or GDP, as a measure of economic success toward one that accounts for the benefits of investing in natural assets such as forests, soils and oceans.
“GDP … is wholly unsuitable for appraising investment projects and identifying sustainable development,” he said.