David Attenborough calls for change to economic policy to protect natural world

Broadcaster and naturalist backs review set up by UK Treasury and calls for action to ‘save ourselves’

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough speaks during the launch of the UK-hosted COP26 UN Climate Summit, which is being held this autumn in Glasgow, at the Science Museum on February 4, 2020 in London, England. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reiterate the government's commitment to net zero by 2050 target and call for international action to achieve global net zero emissions. The PM is also expected to announce plans to bring forward the current target date for ending new petrol and diesel vehicle sales in the UK from 2040 to 2035, including hybrid vehicles for the first time. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
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Systemic changes are needed to the way economic success is measured to protect the natural world and enhance prosperity, a review commissioned by the UK’s Treasury said.

The report, led by Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta, said an urgent transformation of the way people think and act was required.

It recommended that economic success be measured in different ways, and said investment in natural assets should be taken into account.

A “critical step” would be introducing natural capital in national accounting systems, it said.

“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,” Prof Dasgupta said.

“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.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson underlined the urgency of making greener decisions.

“This year is critical in determining whether we can stop and reverse the concerning trend of fast-declining biodiversity,” he said.

The review said a decline in biodiversity had put economies, livelihoods and well-being at risk.

It found that humanity has mismanaged its “global portfolio of assets” in such a way that the demands on nature had far exceeded its capacity to supply the goods and services upon which the world relies.

It said the imbalance between supply and demand must be corrected, and that taking action now would be “significantly less costly” than delaying it.

“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,” Sir David Attenborough, the broadcaster and naturalist, said.

“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.”