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Market values are destroying nature: UN report

PARIS (AFP) – A major United Nations (UN) report warned on Monday that a global economy focussed on short-term profit is wrecking the planet and called for a drastically different approach as to how we value nature.

Without this shift, universally accepted goals of sustainable development and greater equity will remain out-of-reach, the science advisory panel for biodiversity, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), found.

“The way we understand economic growth is at the core of the biodiversity crisis,” ecological economist at the University of Bern, and co-chair of a 139-nation meeting in Bonn that approved the report, Unai Pascual, told AFP.

“The new assessment aims to bring different types of values into the decisions leading us to transformative change.”

Some 80 experts combed through more than 13,000 studies, looking at how market-based values have contributed to the destruction of ecosystems that sustain us, and what other values might best foster sustainability.

A 34-page Summary for Policymakers comes as the UN steers an international process to stem species loss and protect nature.

In December, nations gather to finalise a treaty tasked with halting the decline of biodiversity and setting humanity on a path to “live in harmony with nature”.

“Nature is what sustains us all,” commented Head of the UN Environment programme Inger Andersen. “It gives us food, medicine, raw materials, oxygen, climate regulation and much more.”

But a five-fold increase in per-capita GDP since 1950 has maimed the natural world that made such growth possible. A million species are threatened with extinction and global warming is on track to make swathes of the planet unlivable.

Two landmark UN reports – in 2018 and 2019 – concluded that only a wholesale transformation of the way we produce, distribute and consume almost everything can stave off runaway global warming and a collapse of ecosystems.