The Value of Nature
The Annual Science Lecture, Monday 16 November, 19.30–21.00, Natural History Museum
Saving the world’s forests, coral reefs and wetlands will save us money as well as protect our environment, according the Pavan Sukhdev, who will explain the true value of nature at this year’s Annual Science Lecture at London’s Natural History Museum.
Pavan explains, ‘Managing people’s desire for things like food, energy, water, and medicinal drugs in a way that reduces the impact on the planet’s diversity is no mean task. Indeed this is the greatest challenge that faces society today.’
A senior banker at Deutsche Bank, Pavan is currently on secondment to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to lead the agency’s Green Economy Initiative, which includes The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study (TEEB), the Green Economy Report and the Green Jobs report.
The variety of life on the planet is increasingly being put at risk from the impact of greenhouse gases, which are increasing at an alarming rate. Funding for the protection of endangered habitats is crucial in the fight against climate change. Forests, for example, are the source of rivers, nutrients for agriculture, opportunities for eco-tourism and food and these so-called ecosystem services are instrumental in protecting vulnerable communities against the impact of climate change already underway.
Pavan is an advocate of natural or nature-based assets such as coral reefs becoming considerations in mainstream economic and policy planning. He explains, ‘The ecosystem services from coral reefs – ranging from coastal defence to fish nurseries, are worth up to US$170 million (£104 million) a hectare a year. An estimated half a billion people depend on them for livelihoods and more than a quarter of all marine fish species are dependent on coral reefs.’
TEEB seeks to show that economics can be a powerful instrument in biodiversity policy, both by supporting decision processes and by forging discourses between science, economics and governing structures. The legitimate and effective use of economic instruments in biodiversity conservation depends on their appropriate application and interpretation and the TEEB study will provide guidance and tools to help, aimed at national policymakers, local administrators and business.
The natural world is the source of much value to us every day – this can be spiritually, culturally, health-wise or economically. Pavan explains that as pressure increases from population growth, changing diets, urbanisation and climate change, we are suffering the consequences of the resulting loss of our biodiversity. Preserving the world’s protected areas such as the Great Barrier Reef would come at no great cost to society. An annual investment of US$45 billion (£25 billion) would secure the delivery of ecosystem services worth some US$5 trillion (£3 trillion), an incredible cost to take nature for granted. The lecture will cover:
• the costs of biodiversity loss and the costs and benefits of actions to reduce these losses
• guidance for policy makers in order to foster sustainable development and better conservation of the planet
The TEEB for Policymakers report will be published on 13 November.
Mr Sukhdev continues, ‘We can look at the world’s economy as a sub-set of the larger economy of the natural resources and ecosystem services that sustain us. The loss of our forests and biodiversity in general could cost us between US$2 and 4.5 trillion (£1.2–2.8 trillion) a year, which is a staggering amount to pay to take nature for granted. Awareness and understanding of the economic value of ecosystems and biodiversity is the first step towards improving business performance, creating effective policies and implementing action at a local, regional and national level.’
You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy this fascinating lecture in the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful surroundings of the Museum’s Hintze Hall (formerly the Central Hall).