The first Earth Debate held at London’s historic Natural History Museum in January this year, highlighted the importance of both recognising the value of nature, and putting this into a language that decision-makers understand.
The vital role of our environment within our economy has been hidden until recently. Pollinating crops, balancing our water distribution and providing genetic resources for our medicine are just a few examples of the life-support that natural resources provide. Yet with no market value, they are consumed freely.
Tools for calculating some of these natural services are now being developed in and are already influencing global environmental policy. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, launched in 2007 by the Federal Environment Ministry and commissioner for the Environment in the European Commission, transformed the way nature is valued, and the costs of its loss. For example, the report estimates the loss of bees and other insects pollinating our crops, to be €153 billion every year, representing 9.5 per cent of world agricultural output in 2005.
This brings to light some key questions: What are the strengths of this emerging understanding and what are the risks? And, to what extent will the new economics of ecosystem services change our attitudes towards sustainable development?
The first Earth Debate, chaired by The Guardian’s Former Science Editor, Tim Radford, bought together panellists Professor Sir Robert Watson (Chief Scientific Advisor to Defra), Will Evison (Environmental Economist, PricewaterhouseCoopers), Ian Dickie (Director, Aldersgate Group) and Claire Brown (Senior Programme Officer Ecosystem Services and Assessment, UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre) to tackle these issues, in a ‘Question Time’ format. The panellists provided a rich range of insights from the scientific, policy, business and civil society perspectives.
The Natural History Museum, Stakeholder Forum and The British Council launched the Earth Debates series to drive momentum and contribute to discussions in the lead up to Rio+20, taking place in Brazil from 20-22 June 2012. This flagship series of debates will bring together high level representatives from key sectors including Government, non-government, civil society and business and tackle key issues at the heart of Rio+20 ‘the global transition to a fair and green economy’ agenda.
The next Earth Debates will focus on: