Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Saving Planet Earth from Catastrophe

Last evening I participated in an international webinar hosted by the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, with the most prominent public intellectual on the planet, Professor emeritus Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), now resident in sunny Arizona. At 92, he still has an acutely spritely mind, and a laser-like ability to analyze the great global issues of the day. In the webinar, titled “The Fate of the Human Experiment”- in a series banner- headlined “Values for a New World”, Chomsky veered between extreme pessimism in analysis (“It IS time to panic! We are in deep trouble”) and optimism in his proffered solutions ( Academics need to educate people on their own and global history). Chomsky present a world facing security and ecological catastrophe, due to the twin threats of nuclear weapons and climate change. He warned critical voices were in danger of being “drowned in silence.” Humankind has created a new Age: the Anthropocene, which brings with it the capacity to destroy humanity, and along with it most life on Earth. Chomsky warned there is no “plan B’ for humankind. Arguing we have driven ourselves ever closer to the “irreversible tipping point”, Chomsky referred to the recently update ‘Atomic Doomsday Clock’ of the international Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists whose hands have moved ever closer to the catastrophic midnight hour, as the most recent warning to pay heed..( By chance, earlier in the same day, a huge 606-page door stopper of a report, the Independent Review on the Economics of Biodiversity led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University, was issued by the UK Treasury. The Guardian newspaper headed its report Economics' failure over destruction of nature presents ‘extreme risks’ New measures of success needed to avoid catastrophic breakdown, landmark review finds ( Treasury Exchequer Secretary Kemi Badenoch said in a written statement publishing the report ( that the Government “welcomes its publication as a strong example of UK thought leadership on an important environmental issue with clear – but often overlooked – economic consequences. The government will examine the Review’s findings and respond formally in due course. (Statement UIN HCWS752, 2 February 2021; The Treasury media release – under its headline “Nature is a blind spot in economics that we ignore at our peril, says Dasgupta Review” - said powerfully: “A fundamental change in how we think about and approach economics is needed if we are to reverse biodiversity loss and protect and enhance our prosperity,” ( The review, it said, “presents the first comprehensive economic framework of its kind for biodiversity. It calls for urgent and transformative change in how we think, act and measure economic success to protect and enhance our prosperity and the natural world, “ adding “Grounded in a deep understanding of ecosystem processes and how they are affected by economic activity, the new framework presented by the Dasgupta Review – which was commissioned by Treasury - sets out the ways in which we should account for nature in economics and decision-making.” Its author, Professor Dasgupta, observed: “Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognising that our long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature’s goods and services with its capacity to supply them. It also means accounting fully for the impact of our interactions with Nature across all levels of society. COVID-19 has shown us what can happen when we don’t do this. Nature is our home. Good economics demands we manage it better.” Globally respected environmental film maker, Sir David Attenborough, said: “The survival of the natural world depends on maintaining its complexity, its biodiversity. Putting things right requires a universal understanding of how these complex systems work. That applies to economics too.This comprehensive and immensely important report shows us how by bringing economics and ecology face to face, we can help to save the natural world and in doing so save ourselves.The Review argues that nature is our most precious asset and that significant declines in biodiversity are undermining the productivity, resilience and adaptability of nature. This in turn has put our economies, livelihoods and well-being at risk. The Review finds that humanity has collectively mis-managed its global portfolio of assets, meaning the demands on nature far exceed its capacity to supply the goods and services we all rely on.” The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson added: “As co-host of COP26 and president of this year’s G7, we are going to make sure the natural world stays right at the top of the global agenda.” Kemi Badenoch also said: “Protecting and enhancing our natural assets, and the biodiversity that underpins them, is crucial to achieving a sustainable, resilient economy. That is why the UK is already investing more than £600 million in nature-based climate solutions, such as tree planting and peatland restoration.” UK Environment Secretary, George Eustice pitched in asserting: “If we want to realise the aspiration set out in Professor Dasgupta’s landmark Review to rebalance humanity’s relationship with nature, then we need policies that will both protect and enhance the supply of our natural assets.” The Treasury media release asserts that: The Review makes clear that urgent and transformative action taken now would be significantly less costly than delay and will require change on three broad fronts: • Humanity must ensure its demands on nature do not exceed its sustainable supply and must increase the global supply of natural assets relative to their current level. For example, expanding and improving management of Protected Areas; increasing investment in Nature-based Solutions; and deploying policies that discourage damaging forms of consumption and production. • We should adopt different metrics for economic success and move towards an inclusive measure of wealth that accounts for the benefits from investing in natural assets and helps to make clear the trade-offs between investments in different assets. Introducing natural capital into national accounting systems is a critical step. • We must transform our institutions and systems – particularly finance and education – to enable these changes and sustain them for future generations. For example, by increasing public and private financial flows that enhance our natural assets and decrease those that degrade them; and by empowering citizens to make informed choices and demand change, including by firmly establishing the natural world in education policy. The UK Government commissioned Professor Dasgupta to lead an independent, global Review - supported by an Advisory Panel, drawn from academia, public policy and the private sector - on the Economics of Biodiversity in Spring 2019, and an interim report was issued in April 2020. Guardian journalists, economics editor, Larry Elliott, and environment editor, Damian Carrington, wrote on 2 February that “ The world is being put at “extreme risk” by the failure of economics to take account of the rapid depletion of the natural world and needs to find new measures of success to avoid a catastrophic breakdown, a landmark review has concluded.” They pointed out that a similar Treasury-sponsored review in 2006 by (Lord) Nicholas Stern, a professor of economics athe London School of Economics, is credited with transforming economic understanding of the climate crisis. The Dasgupta review said that two UN conferences this year – on biodiversity and climate change – provided opportunities for the international community to rethink an approach that has seen a 40% plunge in the stocks of natural capital per head between 1992 and 2014. TheGuardian reported that “Humanity’s impact on the natural world is stark, with animal populations having dropped by an average of 68% since 1970 and forest destruction continuing at pace – some scientists think a sixth mass extinction of life is under way and accelerating. Today, just 4% of the world’s mammals are wild, hugely outweighed by humans and their livestock.” The Dasgupta review urged the world’s governments to come up with a different form of national accounting from GDP and use one that includes the depletion of natural resources. It would like to see an understanding of nature given as prominent a place in education as the “three Rs”, to end people’s distance from nature. Dasgupta also called for new supranational institutions to protect global public goods such as the rainforests and oceans. Poorer countries should be paid to protect ecosystems, while charges for the use of non-territorial waters should be levied to prevent overfishing. The report said almost all governments were exacerbating the biodiversity crisis by paying people more to exploit nature than to protect it. A conservative estimate of the global cost of subsidies that damage nature was about $4tn-$6tn (£2.9-£4.4tn) a year, it said. “Humanity faces an urgent choice. Continuing down our current path presents extreme risks and uncertainty for our economies.” the review said. “The Dasgupta review shows we are running down our natural capital fast, and we will pay the price,” said Lord Stern, adding . “Reversing these trends requires action now, and as the review stresses, to do so would be significantly less costly than delay. Crucially, it would [also] help us to reduce poverty.” Prof Bob Watson, who led the UN assessment, said: “The most important thing is that the Dasgupta review was commissioned by the UK Treasury ministry, not the environment department. Hopefully this will mean that finance ministries around the world will acknowledge that the loss of nature is an economic issue, not simply an environmental issue.” Jennifer Morris, head of the Nature Conservancy, said: “In the same way the Stern review proved transformational in raising awareness of climate risk for business and financial markets, the Dasgupta review is likely to represent a watershed moment for how we value the contributions made by nature across nearly every aspect of our lives.” In a further analysis, Carrington wrote (“Economics of biodiversity review: what are the recommendations? “Biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history and the review aims to create a new economic framework, grounded in ecology, that enables humanity to live on Earth sustainably. ”Our economies, livelihoods and wellbeing all depend on our most precious asset: nature. We are part of nature, not separate from it.” These are the opening lines of the Dasgupta landmark review of the economics of biodiversity. Dasgupta highlights that most governments pay people more to exploit nature than to protect it and that destructive farming subsidies cause damage costed at $4tn-$6tn (£2.9tn-£4.4tn) per year. Humanity’s growing population must also be tackled, Dasguptas stresses, saying: “Addressing the shortfall [in women’s access to education and family planning] is essential, even if the effects may not be apparent in the short-term.” It is less costly to conserve nature than to restore it, so expanding and improving protected areas also has an essential role to play, according to the review. For ecosystems that provide global benefits, such as the Amazon forest, nations should be paid to protect them, the review says. For ecosystems outside national boundaries, such as the high seas, those who exploit them should pay for their use. Nina Seega, at the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership, said: “The review’s focus on completely rewiring mainstream economic and financial models is key to moving the nature debate on to the agenda of governments, financial regulators and individual financial firms. It is especially pertinent to take the opportunity presented by the Covid-19 crisis to align the underpinnings of our economic and financial system with a sustainable future.” The Dasgupta review concludes: “To detach nature from economic reasoning is to imply that we consider ourselves to be external to nature. The fault is not in economics; it lies in the way we have chosen to practise it. Transformative change is possible – we and our descendants deserve nothing less.” Meanwhile, the British Government in a classic example of a lack of joined-up thinking, butressed by total diplomatic hypocrisy, has continued to defend its support for possession and deployment of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, demonstrating perfectly the argument made by Chomsky . As it happens, on Monday, the UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace MP, was answering oral defence questions in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon (1 February 2021) . Two Scottish National Party (SNP) MPs Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) and Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) asked “What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons? ( Mr Wallace responded saying predicably: “The Government have been clear that we will not sign the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons….” Ms Gibson retorted: “The Secretary of State will be aware of the deep disappointment and frustration felt across Scotland and much of the UK because the UK Government did not join 85 other countries and sign up to the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons on 22 January. Can he explain why the UK has failed to support this treaty, and how this is consistent with its strategic objectives and obligations under article VI of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to make attempts in good faith to move towards the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons programmes? Defence secretary Wallace, ducked the question, asserting: “The Government did not sign up to it because we do not think it is an effective way of dealing with this. We do think that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty is a more effective way of reducing both the spread and, indeed, the number of nuclear weapons on the planet, and that is why we favour gradual multilateral disarmament negotiated through a step-by-step approach.” Grady pointed out that: “It seems as if global Britain is running in the opposite direction of global consensus on this issue. Rather than just hoping that nuclear weapons will never be used and working for some eventual point in the future when they might be eradicated, why will the Government not take the bold steps of signing this treaty and, for that matter, removing Trident from the shores of this country?” Mr Wallace responded with a highly fatuous ramble, saying: “It may have missed the hon. Gentleman’s attention that other countries, those much less democratic and with much less regard for human rights, are working in the other direction and developing nuclear weapons. One reason we felt that nuclear weapons are important to the United Kingdom, when other regimes such as, potentially, North Korea and others develop them, is as a deterrent. We will continue to believe that, and seek ways to reduce nuclear holdings around the world in a multilateral, not a unilateral way. If I think that some of those adversaries care about some of those countries having nuclear weapons or not, the world might be slightly different, but it is not. We should be careful and protect our friends. We are a provider of a nuclear deterrent for NATO and for Europe. That has kept the peace for 50 years, despite some very aggressive nuclear powers.” For a much more nuanced, honest and expert assessment, I recommend reading the new 36-page research paper written by Steven Hill, an Associate Senior Policy Fellow at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University, released last week by international think tank, Chatham House, titled: NATO and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons ( 29 JANUARY 2021) ISBN: 978 1 78413 441 9 ( Hill has recently completed a six-year term in office as the chief legal counsel to NATO secretaries general Jens Stoltenberg and Anders Fogh Rasmussen. His paper asks: What does the entry into force of the TPNW mean for NATO and its member states? Background: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on 22 January 2021. As part of a project examining NATO obligations and how they interact with nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament law and policy, this paper focuses on what the entry into force of the TPNW should mean for members of the NATO Alliance. NATO has long maintained a strong unified position in opposition to the new treaty, meaning that under current circumstances it is unlikely that any NATO member will join the TPNW. But the reality for NATO, its members and partners is that the TPNW is now here to stay. There is a risk that if the Alliance maintains an intense focus on opposing the TPNW, this may obscure NATO’s broader long-standing commitment to global nuclear disarmament, and may undermine the potential for NATO and supporters of the TPNW to work together to advance the common goal of nuclear disarmament. Contents • Summary • 01 Introduction • 02 NATO nuclear policy • 03 NATO’s concerns about the TPNW⌄ o Background: TPNW negotiations and approval at the UN o Concerns set out in the NAC statements o Other potential NATO concerns • 04 The TPNW and customary international law • 05 NATO’s ADN policy • 06 Conclusions • About the author • Acknowledgments Summary • The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on 22 January 2021. The treaty had been opened for signature at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 20 September 2017, and the threshold of 50 deposits of instruments of ratification, required for the TPNW to enter effect, was reached on 24 October 2020. • As part of a project on understanding NATO obligations and how they interact with nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament law and policy, this paper focuses on what the entry into force of the TPNW should mean for the 30 NATO member states (Allies). NATO has maintained a strong unified position in opposition to the TPNW. Several NATO partner countries have joined the treaty; others have decided not to join, often citing the potential effect on their security and ongoing cooperation with NATO as grounds for this decision. • The reality is that the TPNW will now be here to stay. Even if the prospect of a NATO Ally becoming a party to the TPNW may be currently assessed as unrealistic, a too intense focus on opposing the TPNW may obscure NATO’s broader long-standing commitment to global nuclear disarmament. • Having set out the basic principles of NATO’s nuclear policy, and its delicate balance between nuclear disarmament and deterrence, this paper asks a number of critical questions in the context of the entry into force of the TPNW. What are the core arguments that NATO Allies have advanced against the TPNW? Do these arguments hold weight in response to various criticisms that have been levelled them against? Can the TPNW create customary international law? If so, is the ‘persistent objector’ strategy adopted by NATO Allies an effective one? And what can NATO now do to strengthen its support for arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation? • The paper concludes with recommendations as to how NATO can position itself on these issues in the future. It also suggests that TPNW supporters could do more to engage NATO and like-minded states on ways to advance the common goal of nuclear disarmament. Hill concludes: “The current state of the debate on the TPNW is highly polarized. Given the nature of Allies’ objections to the TPNW, it is unlikely that NATO will change its position as expressed in the 2017 and 2020 NAC (North Atlantic Council, the political arm of NATO) statements. There is a strong feeling that TPNW supporters in civil society focus their energies on democratic countries and do not focus on other states that are exacerbating the current threat environment. TPNW supporters make good-faith arguments that often feature sophisticated legal interpretations aimed at addressing NATO’s concerns. However, these arguments are likely to remain unpersuasive in so far as they focus on legally available options and ignore political realities. It would be unfortunate if the current spirit of polarization around the TPNW were to have a negative impact on the overall propensity for cooperation – which is clearly needed by the international community.” ANNEXES: Independent report Final Report - The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review Final Report of the Independent Review on the Economics of Biodiversity led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta. Published 2 February 2021 From: HM Treasury Documents The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Full Report PDF, 26.8MB, 606 pages The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Abridged Version PDF, 8.43MB, 103 pages The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Headline Messages PDF, 1.84MB, 10 pages The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Reactions HTML The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Reactions PDF, 143KB, 18 pages This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Request an accessible format. If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of this document in a more accessible format, please email Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use. Details The Dasgupta Review is an independent, global review on the Economics of Biodiversity led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta (Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge). The Review was commissioned in 2019 by HM Treasury and has been supported by an Advisory Panel drawn from public policy, science, economics, finance and business. The Review calls for changes in how we think, act and measure economic success to protect and enhance our prosperity and the natural world. Grounded in a deep understanding of ecosystem processes and how they are affected by economic activity, the new framework presented by the Review sets out how we should account for Nature in economics and decision-making. The final Review comprises the Full Report, an Abridged Version and the Headline Messages. Final Report documents (above). Press Notice including external reactions to the Review: • The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Press Notice • The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Reactions (document above) General enquiries and feedback should be directed to the Independent Review team Our economies, livelihoods and well-being all depend on our most precious asset: Nature. We are part of Nature, not separate from it. We rely on Nature to provide us with food, water and shelter; regulate our climate and disease; maintain nutrient cycles and oxygen production; and provide us with spiritual fulfilment and opportunities for recreation and recuperation, which can enhance our health and well-being. We also use the planet as a sink for our waste products, such as carbon dioxide, plastics and other forms of waste, including pollution. Nature is therefore an asset, just as produced capital (roads, buildings and factories) and human capital (health, knowledge and skills) are assets. Like education and health, however, Nature is more than an economic good: many value its very existence and recognise its intrinsic worth too. Biodiversity enables Nature to be productive, resilient and adaptable. Just as diversity within a portfolio of financial assets reduces risk and uncertainty, so diversity within a portfolio of natural assets increases Nature’s resilience to shocks, reducing the risks to Nature’s services. Reduce biodiversity, and Nature and humanity suffer. We have collectively failed to engage with Nature sustainably, to the extent that our demands far exceed its capacity to supply us with the goods and services we all rely on. We are all asset managers. Individuals, businesses, governments and international organisations all manage assets through our spending and investment decisions. Collectively, however, we have failed to manage our global portfolio of assets sustainably. Estimates show that between 1992 and 2014, produced capital per person doubled, and human capital per person increased by about 13% globally; but the stock of natural capital per person declined by nearly 40%. Accumulating produced and human capital at the expense of natural capital is what economic growth and development has come to mean for many people. In other words, while humanity has prospered immensely in recent decades, the ways in which we have achieved such prosperity means that it has come at a devastating cost to Nature. Estimates of our total impact on Nature suggest that we would require 1.6 Earths to maintain the world’s current living standards. The Review calls the imbalance between our demands and Nature’s supply the ‘Impact Inequality’. Those demands are affected by the size and composition of our individual demands, the size of the human population, and the efficiency with which we both convert Nature’s services to meet our demands and return our waste back into Nature. Nature’s supply is affected by the ‘stock’ of natural assets and its ability to regenerate. Our unsustainable engagement with Nature is endangering the prosperity of current and future generations. Biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history. Current extinction rates, for example, are around 100 to 1,000 times higher than the baseline rate, and they are increasing. Such declines are undermining Nature’s productivity, resilience and adaptability, and are in turn fuelling extreme risk and uncertainty for our economies and well-being. The devastating impacts of COVID-19 and other emerging infectious diseases – of which land-use change and species exploitation are major drivers – could prove to be just the tip of the iceberg if we continue on our current path. Many ecosystems, from tropical forests to coral reefs, have already been degraded beyond repair, or are at imminent risk of ‘tipping points’. These tipping points could have catastrophic 2 The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Headline Messages consequences for our economies and well-being; and it is costly and difficult, if not impossible, to coax an ecosystem back to health once it has tipped into a new state. Low income countries, whose economies are more reliant than high income countries on Nature’s goods and services from within their own borders, stand to lose the most. Reversing these trends requires action now. To do so would be significantly less costly than delay, and would help us to achieve wider societal goals, including addressing climate change (itself a major driver of biodiversity loss) and alleviating poverty. At the heart of the problem lies deep-rooted, widespread institutional failure. Nature’s worth to society – the true value of the various goods and services it provides – is not reflected in market prices because much of it is open to all at no monetary charge. These pricing distortions have led us to invest relatively more in other assets, such as produced capital, and underinvest in our natural assets. Moreover, aspects of Nature are mobile; some are invisible, such as in the soils; and many are silent. These features mean that the effects of many of our actions on ourselves and others – including our descendants – are hard to trace and go unaccounted for, giving rise to widespread ‘externalities’ and making it hard for markets to function well. But this is not simply a market failure: it is a broader institutional failure too. Many of our institutions have proved unfit to manage the externalities. Governments almost everywhere exacerbate the problem by paying people more to exploit Nature than to protect it, and to prioritise unsustainable economic activities. A conservative estimate of the total cost globally of subsidies that damage Nature is around US$4 to 6 trillion per year. And we lack the institutional arrangements needed to protect global public goods, such as the ocean or the world’s rainforests. The 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) and the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) provide important opportunities to set a new, ambitious direction for the coming decade, and establish the right environment to deliver on commitments made and the institutional arrangements needed to ensure those commitments are met. The solution starts with understanding and accepting a simple truth: our economies are embedded within Nature, not external to it. While most models of economic growth and development recognise that Nature is capable only of producing a finite flow of goods and services, the focus has been to show that technological progress can, in principle, overcome that exhaustibility. This is to imagine that, ultimately, humanity is ‘external’ to Nature. The Review develops the economics of biodiversity on the understanding that we – and our economies – are ‘embedded’ within Nature, not external to it. The Review’s approach is based firmly in what we know from ecology about how ecosystems function, and how they are affected by economic activity, including the extraction of natural resources for our production and consumption, and the waste we produce through these activities, which ultimately damages ecosystems and undermines their ability to provide the services on which we rely. This approach helps us to understand that the human economy is bounded and reshapes our understanding of what constitutes truly sustainable economic growth and development: accounting fully for the impact of our interactions with Nature and rebalancing our demand with Nature’s capacity to supply. The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Headline Messages 3 We need to change how we think, act and measure success. Humanity faces an urgent choice. Continuing down our current path – where our demands on Nature far exceed its capacity to supply – presents extreme risks and uncertainty for our economies. Sustainable economic growth and development requires us to take a different path, where our engagements with Nature are not only sustainable, but also enhance our collective wealth and well-being and that of our descendants. Choosing a sustainable path will require transformative change, underpinned by levels of ambition, coordination and political will akin to, or even greater than, those of the Marshall Plan. The change required should be geared towards three broad transitions. (i) Ensure that our demands on Nature do not exceed its supply, and that we increase Nature’s supply relative to its current level. Food production is the most significant driver of terrestrial biodiversity loss. As the global population grows, the enormous problem of producing sufficient food in a sustainable manner will only intensify. Technological innovations and sustainable food production systems can decrease the sector’s contribution to climate change, land-use change and ocean degradation; reduce environmentally damaging inputs and waste; improve production system resilience, through methods such as precision agriculture, integrated pest management and molecular breeding techniques; and are likely to have a positive economic impact, including the creation of jobs. Demand for energy is a major contributor to climate change and resulting biodiversity loss. Decarbonising our energy systems is a necessary part of balancing demand and supply. But if we are to avoid exceeding the limits of what Nature can provide on a sustainable basis while meeting the needs of the human population, we cannot rely on technology alone: consumption and production patterns will need to be fundamentally restructured. Breaking the links between damaging forms of consumption and production and Nature can be accelerated through a range of policies that change prices and behavioural norms, for example enforcing standards for re-use, recycling and sharing, and aligning environmental objectives along entire global supply chains. Growing human populations have significant implications for our demands on Nature, including for future patterns of global consumption. Fertility choices are influenced not only by individual preferences, they are also shaped by the choices of others. As well as improving women’s access to finance, information and education, support for community-based family planning programmes can shift preferences and behaviour, and accelerate the demographic transition. There has been significant underinvestment in such programmes. Addressing that shortfall, even if the effects may not be apparent in the short-term, is essential. Conserving and restoring our natural assets will sustain and enhance their supply. It is less costly to conserve Nature than to restore it once damaged or degraded, all else being equal. In the face of significant risk and uncertainty about the consequences of degrading ecosystems, in many cases there is a strong economic rationale for quantity restrictions over pricing mechanisms. Expanding and improving the management of Protected Areas therefore has an essential role to play. Multi-functional landscapes and seascapes that provide ecosystem goods and services, and protect and enhance biodiversity, are also important. Large-scale and widespread investment in Nature-based Solutions would help us to address biodiversity loss and significantly contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, not to mention wider economic benefits, including creating jobs. As part of fiscal stimulus packages in the wake of COVID-19, investment in natural capital has the potential for quick returns. Moreover, natural capital forms the bulk of wealth in low income countries, and those on low incomes tend to rely more directly on Nature. And so conserving and restoring our natural assets also contributes to alleviating poverty. 4 The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Headline Messages (ii) Change our measures of economic success to guide us on a more sustainable path. Nature needs to enter economic and finance decision-making in the same way buildings, machines, roads and skills do. To do so ultimately requires changing our measures of economic success. As a measure of economic activity, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is needed for short-run macroeconomic analysis and management. However, GDP does not account for the depreciation of assets, including the natural environment. As our primary measure of economic success, it therefore encourages us to pursue unsustainable economic growth and development. The Review demonstrates that in order to judge whether economic development is sustainable, an inclusive measure of wealth is needed. By measuring our wealth in terms of all assets, including natural assets, ‘inclusive wealth’ provides a clear and coherent measure that corresponds directly with the well-being of current and future generations. This approach accounts for the benefits from investing in natural assets and illuminates the trade-offs and interactions between investments in different assets. Introducing natural capital into national accounting systems would be a critical step towards making inclusive wealth our measure of progress. Frameworks for natural capital accounting and assessment exist and are at different stages of development, and while significant problems of design and measurement remain, this should not deter governments and businesses from supporting and embracing them. Increased investment in physical accounts and valuation would improve the quality of natural capital accounts. Standardisation of data and modelling approaches, and technical support, would make it easier to embed natural capital accounting in national economic accounts, and, above all, use the information to improve decision-making at scale around the world. (iii) Transform our institutions and systems – in particular our finance and education systems – to enable these changes and sustain them for future generations. Information required for managing ecosystems is asymmetrically distributed: much is uniquely understood and best managed by local communities, but important perspectives are also held among national governments, international organisations and along global supply chains. Institutional arrangements that enable sustainable engagement with ecosystems are ‘polycentric’. They pool knowledge and perspectives among and across different levels – global, regional, national and local – and from different organisations, communities and individuals. In doing so, they enable relevant information to flow, and allow for collaborative planning, participation and coordination. Ecosystems that are global public goods raise problems, the solutions for which transcend national seats of governance. The Review points to the need for supra-national institutional arrangements. There are two broad classes of cases to consider. For those ecosystems (biomes, more accurately) that are located within national boundaries (for example, tropical rainforests), a system of payments to nations for protecting the ecosystems on which we all rely should be explored. For ecosystems that lie outside national boundaries (for example, the oceans beyond exclusive economic zones), imposing charges, or rents, for their use (for example, ocean traffic and ocean fisheries) and prohibiting their use in ecologically sensitive areas should be instituted. It may even be that the revenue generated from the latter system of international governance is able to pay for the former system of international governance. Enabling the changes we need will also require collective and sustained action to transform the systems that underpin our engagements with Nature, above all our financial and education systems. Our global financial system is critical to supporting a more sustainable engagement The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Headline Messages 5 with Nature. Financial flows devoted to enhancing our natural assets are small and are dwarfed by subsidies and other financial flows that harm these assets. We need a financial system that channels financial investments – public and private – towards economic activities that enhance our stock of natural assets and encourage sustainable consumption and production activities. Governments, central banks, international financial institutions and private financial institutions all have a role to play. Financial actors can also help us manage and mitigate the risks and uncertainty that result from our unsustainable engagement with Nature. Businesses and financial institutions can do this by accounting for dependencies and impacts on Nature in their activities; and through the measurement and disclosure, not only of climate-related financial risks but Nature-related financial risks too. And central banks and financial regulators can support increased understanding by assessing the systemic extent of Nature-related financial risks. What is ultimately required is a set of global standards underpinned by credible, decision-grade data, which businesses and financial institutions can use to fully integrate Nature-related considerations into their decision-making, and assess and disclose their use of, and impact on, Nature. However, relying on institutions alone to curb our excesses will not be enough. The discipline to draw on Nature sustainably must, ultimately, be provided by us as individuals. But societal change – particularly growing urbanisation – has meant that many people have grown distant from Nature. Interventions to enable people to understand and connect with Nature would not only improve our health and well-being, but also help empower citizens to make informed choices and demand the change that is needed; for example by insisting that financiers invest our money sustainably and that firms disclose environmental conditions along their supply chains, and even boycotting products that do not meet certain standards. Establishing the natural world in education policy is therefore essential. The development and design of environmental education programmes can help to achieve tangible impact, for example by focusing on local issues, and collaborating with scientists and community organisations. Transformative change is possible – we and our descendants deserve nothing less. At their core, the problems we face today are no different from those our ancestors faced: how to find a balance between what humanity takes from Nature and what we leave behind for our descendants. While our ancestors were incapable of affecting the Earth system as a whole, we are doing just that. The transformative change needed in choosing the sustainable path requires the sustained commitment of actors at all levels. It also involves hard choices. Standard economic models view our choices as self-centred. There is growing evidence, however, that our preferences are affected by the choices of others – they are ‘socially embedded’. Since we look to others when acting, the necessary changes are not only possible, but are likely to be less costly and less difficult than often imagined. The success stories from around the world highlighted throughout the Review show us what is possible. They also demonstrate that the same ingenuity that has led us to make demands on Nature that are so large, so damaging and over such a short period, can be redeployed to bring about transformative change, perhaps even in just as short a time. We and our descendants deserve nothing less. The Economics of Biodiversity: Advisory Panel An expert Advisory Panel has been established and held its inaugural meeting to support the independent global review on The Economics of Biodiversity HM Treasury 19 September 2019 An expert Advisory Panel has been established to support the independent global review on The Economics of Biodiversity, led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta. The Panel held its inaugural meeting at HM Treasury on Monday 16 September. The Advisory Panel, made up of leading individuals from public policy, science, economics, finance and business, will provide expert insight and challenge to support Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta deliver the Review’s objectives. The Panel members are: • Inger Andersen - Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme • Juan Pablo Bonilla - Manager of the Climate Change and Sustainable Development Sector, Inter-American Development Bank • Sir Ian Cheshire - former Chair, Barclays Bank UK PLC • Dominic Christian - Global Chairman for Reinsurance Solutions, Aon • Kemi Badenoch MP (Panel Chair) - Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury • Sir Roger Gifford - Chairman of the Green Finance Institute • Professor Cameron Hepburn - Professor of Environmental Economics, Oxford Martin School • Professor Justin Lin - Director of New Structural Economics, National School of Development, Peking University • Professor Georgina Mace - Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystems, University College London • Professor Henrietta Moore - Director of the Institute for Global Prosperity and Chair in Culture, Philosophy and Design, University College London • Professor Cosmas Ochieng - Global Director, Governance Centre, World Resources Institute and formerly Director, Africa Natural Resource Centre, African Development Bank African Development Bank • David Hill* - Director General for Environment, Rural and Marine, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs • Dame Fiona Reynolds - Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge University • Charles Roxburgh* - Second Permanent Secretary, HM Treasury • Lord Nicholas Stern - Professor Economics and Government, and Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics • Kristian Teleki - Director of Sustainable Ocean Institute, World Resources Institute • Professor Sir Robert Watson - Director of Strategic Development, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia • Kate Wylie - Global Vice President of Sustainability, Mars *Ex Officio In addition, Sir David Attenborough has agreed to act as an Ambassador for the Review. Background In Spring 2019, HM Treasury asked Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta to lead an independent global review on the Economics of Biodiversity. The Review will aim to (i) assess the economic benefits of biodiversity globally; (ii) assess the economic costs and risks of biodiversity loss; and (iii) identify a range of actions that can simultaneously enhance biodiversity and deliver economic prosperity. The Review will be based on a thorough consideration of robust, relevant, up-to-date evidence and a Call for Evidence was launched on 14 August 2019. The Call for Evidence will run until 6 November 2019. Responses to any, or all, of the questions can be sent to: The Review will report to the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, ahead of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity taking place in October 2020 in China. NATO and the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty: Options for the Biden Administration by Kjølv Egeland Just Security, January 28, 2021 The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on Jan. 22. While supporters such as U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres have praised this development as an important milestone in the struggle against the bomb, critics like the Trump Pentagon have argued that the treaty could undermine the unity and security of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). But whether the TPNW becomes a problem for NATO is entirely up to the allies. As always with the Atlantic alliance, much will depend on the United States. Excluding the option of America itself joining the TPNW, the Biden administration is left with two alternative strategies. The first would be to continue to resist and make an issue of the treaty, raising the dickens to deter allies from signing. The second would be to kill the TPNW’s supposed negative externalities with kindness, accepting the treaty’s emergence while seeking to make the best of it. What is the TPNW and Why Does It Matter to NATO? The TPNW was adopted by 122 states in July 2017 and prohibits any development, possession, and use of nuclear arms. Promoted by a transnational coalition of states and NGOs, the treaty is designed to give institutional weight to the vision of a world without nuclear weapons and, by extension, to build pressure for disarmament over the long term. Unsurprisingly, the nuclear-armed states and many of their allies have been skeptical of the treaty, arguing that it might delegitimize the policy of nuclear deterrence or foster “polarization” in the international community. While NATO officially supports the goal of nuclear disarmament, none of the allies have so far joined the agreement. This could easily change over the next few years, however, as a number of political parties and electoral coalitions in NATO member states appear determined to capitalize on strong public support for ratification. NATO has referred to itself as a “nuclear alliance” since 2010, but the uniquely nuclear aspects of allied cooperation are in practice limited to the deployment of a combined 150 U.S. B61 nuclear gravity bombs to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, participation in the annual nuclear drill “Steadfast Noon” by the five nuclear hosts mentioned above and two or three others, a few relatively equivocal paragraphs in NATO’s policy documents, and infrequent, choreographed “consultations” on allied nuclear policy in the NATO Nuclear Planning Group and its subsidiary organs. Three members – Britain, France, and the United States – have their own nuclear arsenals. Each nation’s head of government enjoys “sole authority” over their country’s nuclear arms. Now they must decide what to do about the TPNW. With the United States remaining the dominant force in NATO, the diplomatic strategy of the Biden administration will be of particular importance. Option 1: Raising the Stakes Broadly corresponding to the general approach adopted by the Trump administration following the 2017 adoption of the Treaty, the strategy of raising the stakes would involve publically threatening allies and partners considering signature with various political and diplomatic reprisals (as Team Trump did with Sweden), to raise concern about verification arrangements and the TPNW’s alleged undermining of other disarmament instruments, and to frame the new agreement as “dangerous,” “destabilizing,” and “incompatible with NATO strategy.” This tack might help delay what some have described as the long-term “inevitability” of a NATO member joining the treaty – several allies are already under increasing domestic pressure to sign – but at a substantial risk. Indeed, the strategy has at least three significant downsides. First, the repeated harping on purported negative externalities associated with the TPNW risks fostering self-fulfilling prophecies. After all, publically claiming that allied support for the TPNW will inexorably “undercut security in Europe,” “weaken NATO,” or generate exploitable “divisions in the alliance” is tantamount to sowing doubt about the United States’ willingness to come to the aid of allies that have joined the TPNW, thus emboldening adversaries and potential aggressors. Taking a stance perceived to be unnecessarily hawkish or hostile to nuclear disarmament and the TPNW could also serve to turn public opinion against NATO and the United States, thereby fostering the very division the opponents of the TPNW say they are determined to prevent. Second, a strategy of opposition draws attention not only to the TPNW itself but also to America’s de facto opposition to what has effectively been a declared ambition of successive U.S. governments, namely a reduction in the salience of nuclear weapons and a strengthening of the norms constraining nuclear arms. Effectively declaring that a general security guarantee is insufficient – that the NATO security umbrella must be overtly “nuclear” – also sends a troubling signal to other states: to be secure in the twenty-first century, you either need your own nuclear arsenal or an express nuclear security guarantee from an ally with a large and flexible nuclear force. Third, the persistent promulgation of a series of technical objections to the TPNW that former IAEA director Hans Blix has described as vicarious and “strained” weakens Washington’s credibility and ability to lead on other issues. In summary, raising the stakes around potential allied support for the TPNW is no doubt tempting as a means of dissuading allies from joining, yet it has detrimental impacts on other goals and inescapably increases the agony if or when the gamble fails. Option 2: Playing It Cool The alternative strategy – playing it cool – would invite Team Biden to reverse the Trump administration’s overt campaign against the TPNW, ceasing attempts at persuading others not to sign and playing down the alleged negative externalities associated with the agreement. While this strategy would be fully compatible with proclaiming that the United States itself will not sign the treaty for the foreseeable future, and that America will retain a “safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary,” the U.S. government would under this approach make it clear, tacitly or explicitly, that it will not punish or withdraw the general NATO security guarantee from allies that decide to join the TPNW. To do so, U.S. officials would simply make clear the United States’ enduring commitment to the security of each of its allies and to Article V of the NATO pact – irrespective of individual allies’ position on the legality of cluster munitions, landmines, nuclear arms, or other specific means of war. This approach might hasten the process of at least some non-nuclear allies joining the treaty – some appear to have refrained from signing primarily due to concerns about U.S. reprisals – but would effectively do away with the prospect of the TPNW undermining meaningful military cooperation in NATO, undercutting security, or becoming a wedge between the allies. After all, whether the security guarantee is sapped or military exercises are cancelled is largely up to the United States. Most TPNW-supporters in countries such as Germany, Norway, and Spain are eager to adhere in a way that involves as little disturbance to existing military and alliance arrangements as possible. For example, the Norwegian Liberal, Christian Democratic, and Center parties all combine explicit support for Norwegian signature of the TPNW with enthusiastic approval of NATO and the U.S. alliance, including through longstanding backing of Norwegian contributions to allied operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Few TPNW supporters in U.S.-allied countries are looking to cease participation in intelligence sharing, military drills, or joint military operations. It’s important to note that, legally, such cooperative activities are compatible with ratification of the TPNW. As emphasized in the Oxford Commentary on The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the agreement does not proscribe membership in alliances with nuclear-armed states or participation in joint drills or operations with such states so long as the state party in question stops short of actively “assisting” or “encouraging” the use or possession of nuclear arms. Why Option 2 is the Better Path Support for the TPNW is hardly radical or contrary to support for transatlantic cooperation. A number of former leaders in U.S.-allied nations have come out in favor of the TPNW, including two former NATO secretaries general. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bill Perry supports the agreement. According to former U.S. official Lawrence Korb, “If Reagan was still alive, he would be taking a leadership role, along with Pope Francis, in trying to get other nations, especially those with nuclear weapons to ratify the TPNW.” The TPNW could even have some benefits for the United States over the long term. The overall aim of the states and organizations backing the TPNW is to weaken the prestige value of nuclear weapons and to over time build pressure for nuclear disarmament through the stigmatization of nuclear arms. On the one hand, such normative entrepreneurship could be interpreted as a long-term challenge to America’s strategic autonomy and, ultimately, the credibility of U.S. central deterrence. Evidently, any deterrent threat loses its credibility if its enactment is rendered unacceptable. On the other hand, the United States has repeatedly promised to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons and to seek their eventual elimination. Owing to America’s conventional military superiority, a lower salience of nuclear weapons in global affairs would, all other things being equal, favor the United States. Permitting non-nuclear allies to join the TPNW could also be of considerable value to those in a Biden administration who are eager to promote measures of nuclear restraint such as decreased funding for certain elements of the ongoing nuclear modernization effort, U.S.–Russian negotiations on further nuclear reductions, the phasing out of land-based ICBMs, or a shift to a no-first use or “sole purpose” nuclear posture. At present, the central argument against all of this is that America’s allies would never accept it. Indeed, virtually all observers, including industry-aligned hawks, accept that the United States does not need a first-use policy or enormous nuclear arsenal for its own national defense. These instruments are necessary, so goes the argument, to “reassure” unspecified “allies and partners.” Non-nuclear allies joining the TPNW would help take the sting out of this often-overegged sales pitch. One more question remains: Would the TPNW effectively outlaw extended nuclear deterrence? While the TPNW does not prohibit the individual or collective use of force by conventional means, parties to the TPNW would be prevented from explicitly calling on the United States or other allies to use nuclear weapons on their behalf, for example in a conflict involving Russia. Yet ever since the 1950s, when the Soviet Union developed long-range nuclear forces capable of doing immeasurable damage to the United States, it has been widely acknowledged that, unless America’s own vital national interests or survival were at stake, no U.S. president would authorize use of nuclear arms against Russia. As former national security advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger reportedly put it, “great powers do not commit suicide for their allies.” U.S. threats to use nuclear weapons in response to minor conflicts or conventional aggression in Europe are therefore not believable and consequently of little value as deterrents. To the extent that extended nuclear deterrence has any credibility at all, this credibility resides, first, in the prospect that a U.S. president might on their own terms come to the conclusion that any use of a nuclear weapon by another state would warrant a nuclear response and, second, in the possibility that initially local conflicts could escalate to a point where America became fully invested. Yet U.S. allies’ ratification of the TPNW would not legally foreclose American use of nuclear weapons in either of these scenarios; adherence to the TPNW by Norway, Germany, or Spain would not prevent discretionary use of such weapons by the United States. Shifting from an explicit “nuclear umbrella” to an unspecified “security umbrella” would arguably have little if any impact on NATO’s overall defense posture. Everyone – including those in the Kremlin – would know that the United States possesses nuclear weapons and that America might use them if its perceived national interests so dictated. It would, however, strip proponents of nuclear primacy and increased spending on nuclear weapons of access to the lazy yet potent argument that any step towards nuclear restraint would be incompatible with NATO’s status as a “nuclear alliance.” Basing NATO’s security on an unspecified, general security guarantee would also have historical precedent: In NATO’s early history, between 1949 and 1954, Denmark refused to allow explicit references to NATO use of atomic weapons in the alliance’s strategic documents. Conclusion As long as allies stay silent, the most conservative forces in and around NATO and the U.S. military-industrial complex will continue to have free reigns to present America’s “allies and partners” as a monolithic bloc of countries that oppose no-first use and are desperate for the United States to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on new ICBMs, new “low-yield” nuclear weapons, new ground-launched intermediate-range forces, and new nuclear-tipped cruise missiles deliverable from the air and sea. In fact, for many TPNW supporters in U.S.-allied nations, the disinclination to have one’s country used as a rhetorical bludgeon in the service of nuclear vested interests is precisely one of the reasons for supporting the TPNW. If a progressive U.S. agenda on nuclear weapons is to succeed, it needs allies, partners, and civil society outriders to push the envelope. Those eager to support such an agenda must help shift the political center ground, expand the scope of political action, and allow Joe Biden to continue being a moderate. IMAGE: Anti-nuclear activists of ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) and other peace initiatives stage a protest with 51 flags of countries that ratified the UN Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons and a nabber reading “Nuclear weapons are forbidden! More than 50 states joined. Germany didn’t”, in front of the Chancellery in Berlin, on January 22, 2021. The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into force on January 22, 2021. (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)

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