5 Feb 2021

This week saw the publication of the long-awaited ‘Dasgupta Review’ of the ‘Economics of Biodiversity’, commissioned by the UK Government to look at how we value nature. We welcome this ground-breaking review which comes at a critical time as we consider the combined and inter-related challenges of the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and impending mass extinction.

For too long ecology and economics have been treated as separate disciplines and those who study and practice them part of opposing philosophies. Professor Dasgupta brings them together and presents the compelling case for natural capital and accounting to be brought into the way in which businesses and institutions and nations measure wealth and determine policy. For some time we have known and understood the vital services that nature provides and the intrinsic value to our health and well-being, many of which are set out in this review. Despite this the reluctance to build this in to our economic models and decision making has resulted in the seriously damaged planet that we have now. Recognition that our economies are embedded in nature is a vital first step to a new way of determining our future.

The review points out the link between a diverse economy and biodiversity in ecosystems – in both cases there is a strong positive relationship between diversity and resilience, and degradation of ecosystems leads to both ecological and economic collapse. Maintaining biodiversity through preventing extinction is therefore central to economic as well as ecological recovery.

Professor Dasgupta’s review provides a road map out of this impending disaster and presents a set of inspiring options for change that we must all now address. These are framed around three challenges for transformative change.

Firstly we must stop the net depletion of nature by ensuring that our demands on it do not exceed supply. Ensuring sustainability along entire supply chains, not just at the point of use needs to be part of achieving this. Some of the pioneering work that we are involved in with sustainable palm oil is starting to provide a model for this, but there is so much more that needs to be done. Part of the solution also lies with increasing natural capital through rewilding and ecosystem recovery which are at the heart of some of our global field programmes.

Secondly we must develop new ways of measuring wealth that accounts for and invests in natural assets and moves away from narrow measures such as GDP. We strongly welcome this.

Thirdly we must transform our institutions, especially finance and education systems, to put nature at the centre of their planning. We particularly welcome the emphasis on connection with nature and using education as a vehicle for making that connection. We are already very strongly committed to this through our work with schools young people and our campaign to put conservation at the heart of the curriculum.

The publication of this review feels like a game-changing moment, commissioned as it was by the UK Government, and endorsed and welcomed by a very wide range of senior people from all sections of our society and internationally. We congratulate Professor Dasgupta on his Review and look forward to playing our part in enabling the transformative change that he calls for in order to restore our relationship with nature.

Dr Simon Dowell, Science Director, Chester Zoo
Dr Mark Pilgrim, Chief Executive, Chester Zoo