RECOGNISING THE VALUE OF BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES – BRENDA OMAWUMI
As humans and businesses, we are increasingly putting pressure on earth’s natural capital base namely water, land, forests and biodiversity which is ultimately leading to our inevitable destruction. Our relentless “over-borrowing” from earth’s natural capital base was a key focus in the 2018 UN Biodiversity Conference which closed on 29 November 2018 with a broad international agreement on reversing the global destruction of nature and biodiversity loss threatening all forms of life on Earth. The world’s governments came to the consensus to accelerate action to work to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, agreed in 2010, from now until 2020 which will take place at the global, regional, national and subnational levels.
The focus of protecting land and water against climate change was also of grave importance. Annually, natural capital produces a staggering $33 trillion worth of “free” goods and services that our global economy depends on. But how do we measure how valuable they are? One method of establishing that value is through The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, which aims to end the economic invisibility of nature by helping stakeholders and beneficiaries recognize the value of biodiversity and ecosystem (BES) and the benefits nature provides to the economy.
Disappearing biodiversity has increasingly received mainstream media attention in the past few years. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, “Every hour three species disappear. Every day up to 150 species are lost.” The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) data estimates that only one animal has been definitely identified as having gone extinct since 2000. There is a compelling case to invest in agricultural research and development to respond to the threat of biodiversity loss. Other responses to this challenge are less convincing.
Specialists believe that another way scientists can also measure the value of natural capital is through ‘ecosystem services’. These are the natural processes by which the environment produces resources used by humans, such as clean water, timber, habitat for fisheries, and pollination of native and agricultural plants. In a research paper on biodiversity for Copenhagen Consensus 2012, Salman Hussain, ecological economics researcher of the Scottish Agricultural College, and Professor Anil Markandya of the University of Bath and the Basque Centre for Climate Change, find that there will be a significant loss of biodiversity over the next 40 years. They estimate that globally this loss could be around 12 per cent, with South Asia facing a loss of around 30 per cent and Sub-Saharan Africa of 18 per cent.
They look at three interventions and compare these to doing nothing. As we face greater danger from this impending doom, expert believe the first solution should focus on increasing agricultural productivity through research and development. As the global population has increased to 7 billion, we have cut down a significant amount of forest to grow our food. Therefore, if we could increase agricultural productivity, it helps us to ease the pressure on nature with the subsequent investment in agricultural R&D leading to a reduction due to lower food prices.
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