Include nature when measuring economic growth, study urges

Plastic trash in the polluted Potpecko Lake, Serbia, photo: Reuters/Marko Djurica
Plastic trash in the polluted Potpecko Lake, Serbia, photo: Reuters/Marko Djurica

Countries will have to rethink economic growth and use another measure of success, instead of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), if they want to stop the destruction of the natural world, according to the Dasgupta Review, a British government-backed report published on Tuesday.

“Nature is our home,” said Partha Dasgupta, an economist at the University of Cambridge who led the study. “Good economics demands we manage it better.”

The report criticizes conventional economics and urges policy-makers to accept that all business activity takes place in nature, and therefore, governments must start to value ecosystems accordingly.

The report discusses whether GDP is an appropriate measure of success or whether alternative measures could be used to reflect environmental degradation.

“GDP does not account for the depreciation of assets, including the natural environment,” the report says. Because GPD at the moment is the primary measure of economic success, it encourages unsustainable economic growth and development.

Instead, the authors propose a concept of “inclusive wealth” that would reflect the health of a country’s assets – including its natural assets.

“We know in our hearts that we’re misusing the Earth’s resources,” said Roger Gifford, chair of the London-based Green Finance Institute. “The Dasgupta report is really key for helping us to begin the measurement process.”

“The Dasgupta Review will be key in lifting the importance of biodiversity … in making this intangible into something tangible,” said Nicola Beaumont, an expert in ecosystem services at Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

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