Wildlife & Biodiversity

Political and market economics determine global biodiversity crisis: IPBES9 report  

The ‘Diverse Values and Valuation of Nature’ report by IPBES9 suggests blending values of nature and economic benefits through policy making

By Shuchita Jha, Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Monday 11 July 2022
Photo: @IPBES / Twitter__

Political and economic decisions drive the global biodiversity crisis and there is a crucial opportunity to address the issue, according to a new report released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES9) July 11, 2022.

Diverse Values and Valuation of Nature was conceived over a period of four years by 82 top scientists from 139 member states of IPBES9. It mentioned that political and economic criteria defined the way nature was valued.

The report offered a detailed typology of nature’s values, highlighting how different perspectives of world representatives and knowledge systems affected the ways in which people interacted with nature and valued it.

Brigitte Baptiste, who co-chaired the assessment, said recognising and respecting the worldviews, values and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities allowed policies to be more inclusive. This also translated into better outcomes for people and nature.

“The IPBES assessment report will help us better understand the different ways that people interact with and benefit from nature and also help us grasp the way we can measure these,” Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, said.

She added that the understanding of values will provide a strong basis for designing better economic policies and national planning by countries for sustainable development.

“This year at CoP15 in Montreal, governments are expected to adopt a Global Biodiversity Framework that will allow the world to bend the curve on biodiversity loss and set us on a path of living in harmony with nature,” Mrema said.

The report stated that the economic and political decisions made by national governments mainly prioritised values of nature, especially with respect to market demand, often associated with food produced intensively.

Moreover, the policies associated with these market values did not effectively highlight how the changes in nature affected the quality of life for humans.

Also, the policymaking exercise did not consider many non-commercial activities associated with the role of nature in peoples’ lives like climate regulation and cultural identity.

“Only two per cent of the more than 1,000 studies reviewed, consult stakeholders on valuation findings and only one per cent of them involved stakeholders in every step of the process of valuing nature.

“What is in short supply is the use of valuation methods to tackle power asymmetries among stakeholders and to transparently embed the diverse values of nature into policymaking,” Unai Pascual, who co-chaired the assessment, said.

The other members chairing the assessment were Patricia Balvanera (Mexico) and Mike Christie (UK), “With more than 50 valuation methods and approaches, there is no shortage of ways and tools to make visible the values of nature,” Balvanera said.

She added, “The Values Assessment provides decision makers with concrete tools and methods to better understand the values that individuals and communities hold about nature.”

She cited an example. The Values Assessment highlighted five iterative steps to design valuation to fit the needs of different decision-making contexts.

The report also provided guidelines on how to enhance the quality of valuation by taking into account relevance, robustness and resource requirements of different valuation methods, she said.

Balvanera said different values could be evaluated using multiple valuation methods and indicators. “For instance, a development project can bring economic benefits and jobs and the key values of nature can be assessed accordingly,” she said.

But this can also result in a loss of species closely associated with nature and threaten the heritage sites crucial for cultural identity thereby affecting relations with nature. “The report provides guidance for combining these very diverse values,”she said.

The authors have identified ‘leverage points’ that can help create the conditions for necessary transformations required for a better sustainable future. These are: 

  • Recognising the diverse values of nature
  • Embedding valuation into decision-making
  • Reforming policies and regulations to internalise nature’s values
  • Shifting underlying societal norms and goals to align with global sustainability and justice objectives

Pascaul said, “Our analysis shows that various pathways can contribute to achieve just and sustainable futures.”

The report paid specific attention to future pathways related to ‘green economy’, ‘degrowth’, ‘Earth stewardship’ and ‘nature protection’. “Although each pathway is underpinned by different values, they share principles aligned with sustainability,” Pascaul said.

“Biodiversity is being lost and nature’s contributions to people are being degraded faster now than at any other point in human history,” Ana María Hernández Salgar, chair of IPBES, said.

“The information, analysis and tools offered by the Values Assessment make an invaluable contribution to shifting all decisions towards better value-centred outcomes for people and the rest of nature,” she added.  

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