April 1, 2023

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Nature is not only profitable for man

Humanity must stop viewing nature as a source of short-term profit and base its well-being on “values” that link it to the state of our planet, the UN warned in a statement released on Monday.

Without such change, the goals of sustainable development and the reduction of inequalities in the world will remain sacrosanct wishes, the UN biodiversity experts IPBES underlines in a volume dedicated to “Values ​​and Valuation of Nature”.

“The way we approach economic development is at the heart of the biodiversity crisis,” summed up AFP Unai Pascual, an environmental economist at the University of Bern and co-chair of the IPBES session, which adopted the report at a meeting of 139 countries. Pan.

The text “aims to integrate different types of values ​​into results”, continues the expert.

It comes three days after another IPBES report warned that overexploitation of wildlife threatens the well-being of billions of people.

Both reports will be discussed at the COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal in December, which aims to set a framework for protecting nature and its resources globally by 2050.

For this second task, 80 experts analyzed more than 13,000 scientific studies on the destruction of ecosystems and its causes and alternative values ​​that promote their sustainability.

Because men are at the root of this life crisis, which is closely linked to climate change.

Since 1950, average life expectancy has nearly doubled, while per capita wealth (in terms of GDP) has increased fivefold.

“Nature is what allows us to live,” noted Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environment Programme. “It provides us with food, maintenance, raw materials, oxygen, climate control and more”.

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But Earth has physical limits and, according to scientists, at least six of the nine “planetary limits” — those that humanity must not cross to preserve favorable conditions in which humanity can thrive — have already been breached.

Two previous UN reports on climate change in 2019 and biodiversity in 2019 had already concluded that only a profound change in the way we produce, distribute and consume will help remedy the bottleneck.

A nearly impossible task, IPBES experts warn, unless humanity changes the way it views and values ​​nature. The majority view still holds that sustainability can only be achieved at the expense of human well-being, whereas the good future of our societies requires a healthy nature that is capable of restoring itself.

The statement classifies into four main categories, which can be combined, human “values” related to nature, which can be summarized as “from”, “with”, “in” and “like” its environment.

Humans live off nature if they focus on exploiting resources to fuel their growth and lifestyle. This is the dominant view, which has recently led some to want to put a price on the “services” provided by ecosystems (for example, CO2 sequestered by forests).

Living “with” nature means treating it as independent of human needs. The goal of placing 30% of the world’s surface under protected area is particularly relevant to this category, while it joins the first, for example, to help maintain fisheries thanks to non-fishing areas.

For communities living “in nature”, especially tribals, where the environment is part of their identity and culture, a union was further pushed for those living “like nature”.

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Major projects, such as the great Renaissance Dam built on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia or the “Maya Rail” project in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, should especially be judged by taking into account all of these “values,” not just costs. / benefits, as reported.

A future text under negotiation for the Montreal Convention will “change things” in this respect, say members of IPBES, many of whom are part of both organizations.

“Politically speaking, we hope this study on values ​​will help the negotiations,” said Unai Pascual. “But there is a nagging feeling that it won’t be easy,” he admits, adding that there are many differences, according to negotiators.