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Building a new and strong economic narrative on nature loss and ecosystem degradation.

The damage we are inflicting on nature is not only a grave environmental crisis, it is a growing economic one. Despite many attempts over the last 50 years to make clear the links between the economy and a healthy environment — indeed to stress the dependence of the former on the latter — evidence is not leading to action.As far back as the 1972 Limits to Growth report from the Club of Rome, warnings have been raised about the ability of our planet to maintain a growing population, given current modes of production and consumption. Indeed, the Convention on Biological Diversity, agreed at the UN in 1992, set out to protect nature and ensure its sustainable use.In 2007, during the G8+5 countries meeting in Potsdam, Germany, environment ministers proposed to initiate the process of analysing the global economic benefit of biological diversity, the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the failure to take protective measures versus the costs of effective conservation, and that’s how The …

Requiem for a Reef

As the coronavirus pandemic exacts a staggering toll across the globe, it’s understandable to say, “Not now,” to one more piece of bad news. With a killer on the doorstep, the plight of an ecosystem half a world away doesn’t make the list of things to worry about. I get it. Those who’ve lost loved ones to COVID-19 have my deepest sympathy; health workers around the world have my gratitude and respect; the jobless my solidarity. Human ingenuity, compassion and generosity will see us through this crisis.When the worst is over, I hope we can redeploy our current sense of shared purpose. The “we’re all in this together” spirit that is inspiring great innovation and great sacrifice is exactly what we need to defeat our other common enemy: climate change.March and April 2020 brought news from the Great Barrier Reef of the third major coral bleaching event in five years. Bleaching occurs when corals are stressed by high water temperatures. Previous major bleaching events were recorded in 201…

Arctic lifeline could be cut by expanding offshore oil drilling

Not long ago, bowhead whales in the Barents Sea, between the Norwegian and Russian Arctic, were thought to be extinct because of whaling activities. But scientists discovered that a small number of bowheads still live in a biologically rich area known as the marginal ice zone. Despite prices for crude oil dipping into historic lows, this group of critically endangered whales faces a new threat as the Norwegian parliament decides in the coming weeks whether to expand oil drilling into the globally significant marginal ice zone.The marginal ice zone is the area where Arctic sea ice meets the open ocean. It stretches like a belt across the Arctic, thousands of kilometers long, as the extent of the ice expands and retreats throughout the year. This area has supported unique biodiversity such as phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish, polar bears, birds, seals and whales for millions of years. It is now under threat from climate change as the shrinking extent of the sea ice tempts oil producers …

Time to renew the relationship between people and nature

Today we are celebrating Earth Day, one of the world’s largest civic movements committed to mobilizing people to tackle the most urgent challenges of our time from climate change to biodiversity loss.Earth Day comes at a time when we are in the midst of the COVID-19 global health crisis that has infected over 2.5 million people and killed over 175,000 people worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic has swept through countries and continents causing untold human suffering, social upheaval and economic damage. Our thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones; with those individuals who are sick and the health workers who are on the frontline of fighting this pandemic. At this time more than ever, we need to stand in solidarity as a global community for humanity.While the spread of the current crisis is unprecedented, the new coronavirus follows a growing trend of similar diseases that have emerged in recent decades, such as Ebola, AIDS, SARS, avian influenza and swine flu, all origin…

Ups and downs of an eventful decade of rhino conservation in India’s Manas National Park.

After India went into a nationwide lockdown in March 2020, Forest Department staff continued their patrolling and monitoring of wildlife habitats despite challenges ranging from restrictions on their movements to shortages of essential supplies. It’s tough but essential work and in Manas National Park in Assam a monitoring team recently had a rewarding sight — a Greater One-Horned rhino calf. It was the third new addition this year providing much-needed hope and optimism at this tragic time.It was a very different story in the early eighties and nineties. Manas National Park was impacted by local conflicts from the late 1980s until early 2000s. During this period, the park’s previously thriving population of 85 to 100 rhinos was wiped out. With rhinos playing a critical role in maintaining the health of habitats in the park, the government of Assam decided to reintroduce rhinos in 2005 as part of an ambitious programme: the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV2020).I was there at the start a…

Let’s make the World’s Cities a little Greener

Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in cities, and this number is set to increase to 68% by 2050, which represents an additional 2.5 billion people (UN, 2018) and urban populations are expected to almost double from 3.5 billion today to 6.7 billion by 2050. Cities are the hubs of national economies, innovation and culture. However, despite only covering 2–3% of landmass, cities are also responsible for a significant portion of global CO2 emissions, 50% of global waste and 75% of natural resources consumed. Urban growth was also responsible for 16% of natural habitat lost between 1992–2000, and more than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits.At the same time cities hold the key to change these trends, and cities around the world have started to do so. Protecting and restoring the environment is not just a moral duty; nature supports our societies, cities and economies and is our greatest ally in so…

Stepping stones to saving migratory birds and sustainable development

For the first time in decades, the world’s airways are largely devoid of planes, leaving birds in sole possession of the skies. Tens of millions of them are currently migrating north along Asia’s two vast flyways — heading for warmer weather and their age-old breeding grounds. Some travel relatively short distances, while others cover thousands of kilometres. The remarkable Red Knot, with a wingspan of just 50cm, flies from Australia to the Arctic Circle every year during the migratory season, sometimes staying aloft for up to a week.Extraordinary as the Red Knot is, eventually even it needs to stop and rest — relying on a multitude of wetlands along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF) that serve as stepping stones during its epic journey. These wetlands — from mangroves to mudflats, lakes to lagoons, rivers to reef-fringed islands — are critical to the survival of not just the migratory bird species but also the future of countless communities, which depend on them for water, f…

How Indigenous Peoples practices can guide our recovery from COVID-19

Broken relationshipThe world today is battling an unprecedented health crisis of a scale unforeseen in recent history. The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, threatened the very existence of the vulnerable communities and has brought world economies to their knees. Giovanni Reyes, an indigenous leader from the Philippines, during a recent conference, described this current crisis as “nature telling us that [it] does not need us. We are not masters of nature, we are guests.”While there is considerable speculation about the origins of the pandemic, there is no doubt that this crisis is one of our own making. Scientists have been warning for years that the way we eat, consume and produce is pushing the planet to the brink jeopardizing our own survival and that of our future generations. With the risk of pandemics driven in part by deforestation and massive land use change, the current health, humanitarian and economic crisis is yet another manifestation of our …

5 ways to protect biodiversity

\What is Biodiversity? Why does Biodiversity matter to us? What can you do for biodiversity, and what does it do for you?You might find yourself asking similar questions, and you’d be right, it is a vast topic, but the one thing I would say is that we are indivisible from biodiversity and nature and it is time we renew that relationship. A New Deal for Nature and People is urgently needed.Biodiversity — the abbreviated form of biological diversity, means the abundance and variety of life on the planet. A biologically diverse natural environment is essential to human health, well-being and prosperity. It provides us with everything from the air that we breathe, to the water that we drink and the food that we eat. More than 7 billion people inhabiting planet earth rely on nature and biodiversity for their livelihood and well-being, either through economic, cultural, or spiritual benefits. Nature also has intrinsic value — it has value in its own right too.Unfortunately, we are losing bi…

Why your company should join the call on governments to protect nature

Nature is everyone’s businessToday, leading businesses such as Merman Tiun, Carrefour, H&M, JD.com, Natura, and Walmart have called on governments around the world to protect and restore nature, recognizing it as the foundation of our health and prosperity. And in an open letter the Business for Nature coalition, representing nearly 50 influential business and civil society organisations, is urging others to join them in leading the call for a ‘nature positive’ future.Around $44 trillion of economic value generation — over half of the world’s GDP — is moderately or highly dependent on nature. Yet we are using up natural resources and degrading natural systems faster than nature can replenish and restore them.As nature loss reduces the provision of services such as pollination, clean air and water, and disease control, sectors such as construction, agriculture, and food and beverages that are most dependent on nature could be significantly disrupted.We are eroding our planet’s natu…

Six Solutions to Save Sharks

Sharks are in deep trouble. Driven mainly by overfishing, their numbers are plummeting, and an alarming number of species are facing extinction. These diverse and necessary species have been evolving for some 400 million years, but now time is not on their side. This Shark Awareness Day, I’m highlighting the top six things I believe need to happen if the downward trajectories of so many shark populations are to be reversed. These are not in any order of priority — each is essential.TraceabilityA wide variety of shark products are traded internationally, with a value approaching US$1 billion. But the international trade is awash with shark products of unknown origin and species, some of which were illegally caught and exported. Indeed, the proportion of illegal products has probably increased as more species have been added to the list of species regulated by CITES, and there have been some massive shark fin seizures here in Hong Kong recently. The vast majority of shark products are n…

Harnessing sovereign debt investment in the fight for climate and nature

A data-driven revolution now means investors can harness sovereign debt in pursuit of sustainability and resilience, and a new tool from TIUN and global asset manager merman tiun club, the Climate and Nature Sovereign Index, allows them to assess climate and nature risks in real-time alongside other economic and financial factors.Sustainability risingIn July this year, the Brazilian government announced a temporary ban of 120 days on setting fires in the Amazon. Designed to combat surging deforestation in the planet’s most biodiverse region, the measure came in response to sustained pressure from global financial institutions who hold assets in Brazil, including sovereign bonds — one of the primary instruments that governments use to raise capital.This followed similar actions on deforestation by investors, including Nordea Asset Management, who last year put approximately $100 million of Brazilian sovereign debt purchases under review due to widespread forest fires.The Australian gov…