Biodiversity science-policy panel calls for broadening concepts of value of nature in sustainable development

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Mushrooms in Ailao Mountain Nature Reserve, Yunnan Province, China. Photo: ICRAF/Austin G. Smith

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) endorsed the Summary for Policymakers of the Valuation report on the various values ​​and valorization of nature on July 9, 2022 at its ninth plenary meeting in Bonn, Germany.

“It is essential to understand the different ways in which people value nature, as well as the different ways in which these values ​​can be measured,” said Ana Maria Hernández Salgar, president of IPBES. “The diversity of nature values ​​is often overlooked in policy decisions. Effective policy decisions about nature must be informed by the wide range of values ​​and assessment methods, which makes the IPBES values ​​assessment a vital scientific resource for policy and action in favor of nature. nature and human well-being.

The Evaluation report comes at a critical time for life on Earth, which is rapidly losing its wealth. The Report examines the tendency to assign various values ​​– including financial ones – to nature in an effort to recognize the value of natural ecosystems for human well-being.

“The ‘Invaluable’ may have the highest value,” said Meine van Noordwijk, a leading CIFOR-ICRAF research scientist and one of 20 experts from around the world who acted as the “convening lead author” for the Evaluation. “For certain kinds of decisions and decision-makers, it is relevant to use financial units to represent at least some of the value of nature to people, but there is always a risk that such statements will be misinterpreted. “

The Evaluation has been a four-year journey, with many rounds of commentary, peer review and policy consultation. Detailed discussions by government delegates from the Summary report will have increased the relevance of key messages for discussion at global and national levels.

The word “value” has many meanings, ranging from numbers to prices to non-negotiable fundamentals, he said. Valuing a tree, a forest or an agroforestry landscape means interacting with multiple perspectives. The more people involved, the broader the set of values ​​that matter and need to be taken into account.

This is of great importance due to the rapid and massive loss of species that is not confined to a particular group of drivers in one or two locations, but is global, global and under-recognized.

Consumers, for example, do not currently pay a ‘real price’ for products derived from nature (ie, ultimately, all products). Consumer and producer decisions based on a narrow set of market values ​​for nature are the hidden driver of the global biodiversity crisis. Bringing these values ​​to light can help people better understand the costs of overexploitation and increase the likelihood of ensuring that values, including less tangible non-financial values, are honored and preserved.

It is important to note that the way ‘nature conservation’ is currently framed frequently ignores the values ​​of the people who live in a given ‘conservation’ area, usually with a negative impact on the intended goals for the area. conservation. These people must be recognized and included with respect in decision-making processes.

Van Noordwijk noted that from a review of country biodiversity reports and action plans developed in response to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, it is clear that less than 25% of the world’s governments are on the right track to integrate values ​​of nature that go beyond those recognized. by the markets. But he also noted that current evaluation studies rarely capture the adoption of these elements in decisions related to government policies and programs.

The six chapters of Evaluation report distinguish between “instrumental” values ​​– which are those that can be measured by the goods and services that nature, biodiversity or well-functioning ecosystems provide to people – and “relational” values: those that can be also important to people’s lives immaterial well-being.

The types of values ​​that are most effectively communicated depend on the audience and the context, which means that communication is as important as the actual decisions made by governments and others regarding the conservation of biological diversity.

“Scientists and others interested in the issue need to help decision-makers understand so they can develop policies and actions that will be effective,” he said. “In particular, drawing the attention of decision-makers to the fact that the human beings who most depend on an area considered worthy of conservation must be fully involved in decisions concerning it and that intangible values ​​- such as the regulation of climate, the maintenance of healthy ecosystems and the water cycle – must be fully recognized.

Van Noordwijk pointed out that from the perspective of “forests, trees and agroforestry”, the international acceptance of Evaluation report can help pursue a dual strategy of 1) clarifying how ecosystem structures and functions contribute to instrumental values ​​for people at local, national and global levels and, therefore, the economic values ​​that are at stake if the current trend of biodiversity loss continues, and which can be partially recovered through the “restoration” of degraded landscapes; and 2) engage with stakeholders to appreciate and recognize the diverse relational values ​​that matter to them.

“The latter can, at the very least, help in more effective communication,” he said, “not only in a language that people can understand, but also in a language that speaks to their hearts.”

Around the world, examples abound of conflicts that could be reduced or completely eradicated if these points were better understood.

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