Economic growth and environmental conservation have often been viewed as conflicting.
The Agenda 2030 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework for governments, businesses and communities to ensure economic growth planning does not lead to destruction of the environment.
The Covid-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of our dependence on nature, and the economic costs and burden that come with failure to safeguard our animal, human and ecosystem health which are intrinsically linked.
Zoonotic diseases — including the coronavirus — which are transmitted between animals and humans, affect more than two billion people and cause over two million deaths every year. The World Bank estimates that the cost to the global economy of six major outbreaks of zoonoses that occurred between 1997 and 2009 was $80 billion.
In Kenya, the Vision 2030 and the Big 4 Agenda are directly or indirectly dependent on nature and natural capital — the parts of the natural environment such as waters, land, biodiversity and flow of ecosystem services that produce value to people through economic activities like food production, ecotourism and hydro-power generation.
As a signatory to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Kenya has committed to its three objectives of conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources, as reflected in the draft National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2019-2030.
In May 2021, the state signatories to the CBD will meet to discuss and adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework. A critical part of this framework is the need to revisit our economic growth models to ensure that economic growth and development does not come at a cost to the environment.
Scientific evidence, including the global and African assessments reports by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, are pointing to the need for urgent action to safeguard biodiversity and our natural capital, to ensure prosperity for all.
An independent global review on the economics of biodiversity commissioned by the UK’s Economic and Finance ministry in 2019 and led by Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta, the Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Cambridge, with the support of an advisory panel drawn from public policy, science, economics, finance and business is underway. The objectives of the review are to assess the economic benefits of biodiversity globally, assess the economic costs and risks of biodiversity loss, and identify actions that can enhance biodiversity and deliver economic prosperity.
This process presents an opportunity for stakeholders — governments, private sector, civil society and communities — to give input on an economic model that can allow for economic development that is in harmony with nature.
The review is exploring the sustainability of our engagements with nature: What we take from it, how we transform what we take from it and return to it, and why we have disrupted nature’s processes.
The Interim Report of the independent Review on the Economics of Biodiversity was published in April 2020. As a global review, it is essential to reflect the varied experiences and perspectives of stakeholders around the world, and shine a light on success stories that demonstrate what is possible.
For example, there is an opportunity for African economics that are heavily dependent on natural capital to turn around the pervasive loss of biodiversity and build a new economic system based on bioeconomy — an economy which puts innovation in bio-based products, processes and business models at the centre and includes adding value to primary produce, optimising biomass use, and recycling biowaste.
Bioeconomy can lead to innovations and practice that contribute to climate resilience, make our land and sea use sustainable by reducing pollution, and mitigate overexploitation of biological resources.
In Africa, biodiversity and natural capital underpin the major sectors of the economies of many countries, including agriculture, health and tourism. Biodiversity loss therefore impacts economies.
As we deal with the effects and seek solutions for the Covid-19 pandemic, this is the time to safeguard our biological resources to ensure the long-term well-being of humans through sustainable economies.
Dr Osano is an environmental policy expert and acting director of the Stockholm Environment Institute Africa Centre