The Dasgupta review, released yesterday (2 February), is an independent report into the relationship between nature and economics. It has called for an overhaul of the world’s economic system, highlighting nature as ‘our most precious asset’.
The review has highlighted that most governments are accelerating the biodiversity crisis by investing more in exploiting nature and biodiversity than protecting it. In response, it has suggested we must expand and improve access to protected areas and begin to implement large-scale and widespread investments that address biodiversity loss.
It has also warned that the world is at ‘extreme risk’ due to the failure of economics to take into account the loss of natural resources. Highlighting that we would need 1.6 Earths to maintain our current rate of resource use, the report states that radical changes to consumption, production and education are required.
While welcoming the findings of the review, Green Peer Natalie Bennett has noted that the changes required to meet the recommendations of the report are undeliverable in our current systems.
Bennett commented: “The review is to be welcomed in so far as it puts into the terms comfortable for those whose politics is embedded in growth-orientated 19th-century-born political philosophies the urgency of our nature crisis. It stresses that the economy is a complete subset of the environment, that we cannot exist without a healthy natural world.”
“Where it falls down is in trying to apply the same unrealistic, abstract mathematical models, driven by financial calculations, to provide tools to guide what to do.
“Embedding environmental considerations into existing systems is not going to deliver the scale of transformational system change we need.
“You can’t repair a broken wall with the bulldozer that smashed it down.”
One of the key messages from the report is that sustainable economic growth requires a different measure to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which should begin to include the depletion of natural resources.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has called on the UK government to begin acting on these findings urgently. She commented: “Professor Dasgupta’s report should send shockwaves through the Treasury.
“His conclusion is crystal clear: ministers need to replace GDP growth with environmental protection and human wellbeing as the country’s overarching economic goals and apply this to all economic policy making - starting with next month’s budget.
“A focus on GDP growth above anything else is driving ecological as well as climate breakdown and no amount of Prime Ministerial rhetoric or ‘investing in nature’ will halt this catastrophe if we don’t address the root cause.
As the UK Treasury commissioned the report and the UK will host the UN Climate Change Summit (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021, Lucas has also called on the UK government to take a leading role in following the report’s recommendations.
She continued: “We can enhance biodiversity and create a better society for everyone if we abandon an outdated, destructive way of thinking about the economy as separate from the environment and wellbeing and move to one focused on people’s health, quality of life and the regeneration of nature.
“Two-thirds of the public think that government should focus on health and wellbeing over GDP, and 2021 – the year of two critical UN summits – is the year to do it.”
COP26 will be preceded by the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) held in Kunming, China. As one of the main aims of the Review was to create insight into how international financial and policy decisions could reverse biodiversity loss, it is expected to be a key document during discussions at both UN summits.