A landmark review has called for transformational change in our economic approach to nature.

The long-awaited review by Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta, of the University of Cambridge, says prosperity has come at a “devastating” cost to the natural world.

The report proposes recognising nature as an asset and reconsidering our measures of economic prosperity.

It is expected to set the agenda on government policy going forward.

At its heart is the idea that sustainable economic growth requires a different measure than Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognising that our long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature’s goods and services with its capacity to supply them,” Prof Dasgupta said in a statement.

“It also means accounting fully for the impact of our interactions with nature across all levels of society.”

Covid-19 has shown us what can happen when we don’t do this, he added. “Nature is our home. Good economics demands we manage it better.”

The Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity was commissioned by the UK Treasury in 2019, the first time a national finance ministry has authorised a full assessment of the economic importance of nature.

The report, which has been compared with the influential 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, sets out the ways in which we should account for nature in economics and decision-making.

Recommendations include:

  • Making food and energy systems sustainable through technological innovations and policies that change prices and behavioural norms
  • Investing in programmes that provide community-based family planning
  • Expanding and improving access to protected areas
  • Implementing large-scale and widespread investment in nature-based solutions to address biodiversity loss
  • Introducing natural capital into national accounting systems.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the review. The UK is co-hosting COP26 – this year’s UN climate meeting – and also holds the presidency of this year’s G7. Mr Johnson said: “We are going to make sure the natural world stays right at the top of the global agenda.”

Sir David Attenborough, who wrote the foreword to the review, said: “This comprehensive and immensely important report shows us how, by bringing economics and ecology face-to-face, we can help to save the natural world and, in doing so, save ourselves.”

The 600-page review argues that losses in biodiversity are undermining the productivity, resilience and adaptability of nature. This is in turn putting economies, livelihoods and well-being at risk.

Commenting on the review, Jennifer Morris, of conservation non-profit The Nature Conservancy, described it as a “clarion call” to world leaders.

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