Home > News and media > News > News archive > 2005 > Poverty to rise unless economies factor 'Nature's Capital' into national accounts

 

Poverty to rise unless economies factor 'Nature's Capital' into national accounts

Economists and environmentalists gather in London to bring environment into centre of wealth creation

London, 10 October 2005 - Poverty will only be made history when nature's capital is factored into national profit and loss books, one of the world's leading economists will assert today.

Key to this is creating markets that give real and long lasting value to the goods and services nature provides.

Traditional measures such as gross domestic product (GNP) are short changing current and future generations says Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University.

This is because they fail to value the goods and services generated by the natural world and instead treat them and free to use and limitless in their abundance and ability withstand damage and decay.

Such services include the carbon soaking power of forests, the fisheries and coastal defense activities of coral reefs, the pollution filtering-potential of wetlands and the nutrient recycling processes of the earth's soils.

Currently countries who fell their forests for timber exports, dynamite reefs for fish, pollute their land for intensive agriculture and contaminate their waterways with farm and factory run off can appear to be getting richer in the short term.

In reality, they are likely to be sliding into poverty or, at the very best, treading water, because they are plundering their natural capital-a key pillar of medium and long term wealth.

'Take the Indian sub-continent as an example. On the basis of traditional measures, like GDP, the region has been getting richer since the 1970s but in reality wealth per capita has actually declined. This is because, relative to population growth, investments in manufactured capital, knowledge, skills and health, and improvements in institutions were not sufficient to compensate for the depreciation of natural capital,' said Professor Dasgupta.

This has alarming consequences for not only this but the next generation who stand to inherit a planet with insufficient clean and functioning 'ecosystems' to sustain their basic needs let lone their hopes and aspirations.

'Poverty will only be made history when nature enters economic calculations in the same way as do buildings, machines, roads and for example software. It is a particular catastrophe for the very poor,' said Professor Dasgupta.

'As countries mine their natural wealth to fuel economic activity, the poorest of the poor lose their very life support systems. If fish disappears from a rich country's supermarket shelves shoppers can substitute this loss of protein by buying another form for example pork, beef or soya. Poor people, depending on the natural resources around them, do not have this luxury, do not have this kind of choice,' said Professor Dasgupta.

Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which is running a two day brainstorming at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on how to mainstream environment in pro poor development strategies, said: "In the end we are all facing poverty if we fail to address environmental decline, if we fail to reinvest in nature's capital. You cannot continue to drive a car if all you do is put petrol in the tank. It needs servicing, parts require replacing and we must pay for the roads and infrastructure on which it runs.

'In reality, nature is even more complicated. By continually depleting and damaging it and without investment in the running, maintenance and management costs, the Earth's life support can suddenly and abruptly fade or switch to become less productive and unpredictable. I believe we are slowly winning this political and economic argument but not fast enough. So we must hurry up otherwise all six billion of us will eventually be scratching around trying to survive,' he added.

Mr Toepfer said this was given fresh urgency by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the work of over 1,300 experts.

According to the assessment, some 60 per cent of the planet's ecosystem services are currently being degraded by human activities.

This week's two day brainstorming, running from Monday 10 to Wednesday 12 October, has brought together some of the finest minds in environmental economics as well as senior figures from the environmental and intergovernmental fields.

Ends

Contact Nick Nuttall, UNEP spokesperson, on ++ 41 79 596 5737 or email: nick.nuttall@unep.org|

To read the rest of this press release please see the UNEP website|.

Press cuttings

One World, South Asia
World must save environment or face global poverty: UN (11 Oct 05)
With some 60 per cent of the planet's ecosystem services currently being degraded by human activities, the global community must take speedy action or else face a future of 6 billion people "scratching around trying to survive," the head of the United Nations environmental agency said Klaus Toepfer told the opening session a three-day brainstorming seminar at LSE. Also mentioned in Scoop Independent News (New Zealand) and Harold Doan and Associates. 

UN News Centre
World must hurry to save environment or face global poverty, UN official warns (10 Oct)
With some 60 per cent of the planet's ecosystem currently being degraded by human activities, the global community must take speedy action or else face a future of 6 billion people 'scratching around trying to survive,' the head of the United Nations environmental agency, Klaus Toepfer told the opening session of a three-day brainstorming seminar at LSE, said on Monday 10 October.
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=
16153&Cr=environment&Cr1=poverty
|

10 October 2005

Share:Facebook|Twitter|LinkedIn|