MAJOR biodiversity losses in the past few years are “by-products” of the world’s economic growth, according to an expert from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
In an Asian Development Blog, Francesco Ricciardi, a Senior Environment Specialist, Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department at the Manila-based multilateral development bank, said moving away from using GDP as the main yardstick for economic growth could help reverse this trend.
Ricciardi said the increased polluting emissions in water, air and soil, land-use change, climate change and the spread of invasive species are considered the major drivers of biodiversity loss.
“Economic growth is needed to overcome poverty and achieve prosperity targets. That same growth is responsible for potentially irreparable damage to biodiversity and to the ‘ecosystem services’ [such as pollination for crops, or pest control for example] it provides to humanity. These are indispensable ingredients for economic growth,” Ricciardi said.
“There is no complete solution to this dilemma. The right pathway may be rethinking our global socioeconomic model, and this will take time, effort, and sacrifice,” he added.
The ADB expert said if business as usual happens and no interventions are made, the global economy may continue to grow but only up to a “tipping point” which will force biodiversity to collapse. If the planet dies, he stressed, there will be no economy to speak of.
“As we are witnessing almost daily, the climate and biodiversity crises are inextricably linked and affect all of us, especially the most vulnerable. There is no time left to debate whether saving our planet is too expensive, or to keep promoting socioeconomic models that are clearly not working,” Ricciardi said.
Some urgent steps
Ricciardi said there are a few urgent steps in the right direction. This includes rethinking how wealth and economic growth are measured.
He said economists and media professionals should promote other indices of wealth, including natural and social capital to not only focus on GDP growth.
Some of these are the Green GDP, the Human Development Index (HDI), the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) and the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI).
“There is a general global consensus that focusing on GDP is not adequate to bring the world out of the climate and biodiversity crisis, but this index is still mainstreamed in press articles, political promises, and non-specialist public perception,” the expert said.
Ricciardi said there is also a need to take into account the impact of growth on biodiversity and introduce taxation and subsidies for the environment.
There is also a need, the ADB expert said, increasing protected areas and making nature-positive investments as a means to improve a country or region’s natural capital.