The One Planet Centre CIC welcomes the recent landmark Dasgupta Review that puts humanity’s ecological footprint and its relation to planetary boundaries at the heart of economics.
The One Planet Centre, which offers strategies for reducing ecological footprints, has been calling for this move for a long while.
The footprint accounts for all of human activities’ impacts – on climate, nature and pollution – and relates them to what the planet can provide.
The report by Professor Partha Dasgupta of St John’s College, Cambridge, was requested by the Government and officially puts biodiversity at the heart of economics.
The failure to do this up to now has led to uncountable loss of species and habitats.
The report’s publication represents a landmark in the same way as Nicholas Stern’s review of the economics of climate change, commissioned by the Labour government of 2006. It became one of the most influential reports on climate change ever produced. Both are published by the UK Treasury.
Over 600 pages Professor Dasgupta argues that it is essential that economic modelling now includes the value of natural capital as well as produced capital (intellectual property, goods and infrastructure) and human capital (health and education).
It defines humanity’s ecological footprint and its relation to planetary boundaries in the form of an algorithm to quantify the relationship between population, our wants and desires, the biosphere’s supply of its goods and services, and the efficiency with which we use these.
David Thorpe, Director of the One Planet Centre CIC, said, “There is probably no more important algorithm in the world, because upon it depends our survival. And not just our survival but that of thousands of other species and ecosystems.”
He said that he hopes that governments and businesses will use its methodology to bring demands on natural resources in line with supply.
“Of course, we are in deficit at the moment. We have been since 1972, the year when demand outstripped supply.
“If we are in debt, bailiffs may remove our property. In the same way, at a global scale, we have lost 60 per cent of nature since 1972, and climate change has become an existential threat. There are no bailiffs – it’s the result of our own actions.”
David Thorpe added, “The genius of Dasgupta’s review is that it provides not just a reason for the failure of economics so far but models and languages for various actors in an economy that would allow them to rectify this so as to protect and sustain our place in the biosphere. “
Perhaps the Review’s most important sentence is: “It is a fundamental misconception of economists that we can continue to rely on models of growth and development in which our impact on the biosphere is of second-order importance” (page 130).
Climate change and biodiversity loss are intimately related and connected to consumption patterns
Climate change and biodiversity loss are intimately related. If we tackle one then we tackle the other, Dasgupta says: “An integrated response to climate change and biodiversity loss is needed.”
He suggests that indefinite growth as measured by global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is impossible and offers a new way of measuring economic progress by tracking the factors underlying the human impact on the biosphere including the waste products arising from all production and consumption.
If we remove all pollution, and treat our waste, preferably by reusing it in a circular economy, the impacts on the biosphere will be reduced.
Regenerating nature is an investment in our children’s futures
Just as, over time, invested capital can accrue interest, so nature can regenerate, and the Review proposes a system to describe this as well: the supply side of the equation.
But it also cautions against tampering with nature: about the unintended negative effects of technological interventions – ‘ecosystem engineering’ – intended to fix ecological problems we had caused but which cause more problems.
The Review offers a route to getting our footprint deficit back into the black while meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. It also discusses the management of the commons and ensuring well-being for future generations.
In response to objections, about bringing nature into the capitalist system and that putting a social price on something does nothing to stop anti-social interests from exploiting it,” David Thorpe said “This is true but it does not mean that Dasgupta’s approach is wrong.
“No one can deny that it is because nature has been left off the balance sheet its destruction has been inevitable. Putting a value on nature helps us see that restoring it increases its value – to everything else.
“Passing laws protecting nature and their enforcement will help prevent other forms of destruction. Only rooting out corruption will stop ruthless industrialists bribing politicians to let them destroy mangroves.
“It is time for economists to be taught a new type of economics. Traditional economics is morally and ecologically bankrupt.”
About the Dasgupta Review
The Dasgupta Review is an independent, global review on the Economics of Biodiversity led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta (Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge). The Review was commissioned in 2019 by HM Treasury and has been supported by an Advisory Panel drawn from public policy, science, economics, finance and business. The Review calls for changes in how we think, act and measure economic success to protect and enhance our prosperity and the natural world. The Review can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/final-report-the-economics-of-biodiversity-the-dasgupta-review
About the One Planet Centre CIC
The One Planet Centre is a social enterprise that helps organisations of all sizes reduce their ecological footprint with straightforward and proven solutions and methodologies, training and capacity building. We integrate our work with the Well-being and Sustainable Development Goals, to help Wales and beyond become healthier and more equal – within the limits of what the planet can provide.
More information is at https://theoneplanetlife.com/
David Thorpe is the author of ‘‘One Planet’ Cities: Sustaining Humanity within Planetary Limits and Director of the One Planet Centre Community Interest Company in the UK. He is available on 07901 925671