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Ecosystem And Biodiversity Services Worth Almost $125 Trillion Per Year: Dr. Randall Glaholt, IUCN International Biodiversity Expert
Biodiversity is currently being lost at an unprecedented rate due to human activities that degrade or encroach on habitats, increase pollution load, and contribute to climate variability. This rapid declining of biodiversity is a huge problem for entire humanity and this can’t be averted unless relevant stakeholders come together to fight it
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During the India and Sustainability Standards 2017 Conference organized by Centre for Responsible Business, there was a session on ‘Business and Biodiversity for Environment Sustainability: Issues, Resolutions and Actions’, where best practices and lessons learned by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) were shared with the wider business community, across certain key sectors. The discussion aimed to promote replication of these initiatives, strengthen policy instruments and define approaches/models that ensure Indian companies can effectively do business while conserving biodiversity.
Biodiversity is the variety and variability of life forms found on earth: from tiny microbes to plants and animals. These life forms have evolved as a result of the interaction of elements of the earth with the physical environment thereby embodying in their genetic makeup adaptability to all types of climatic and environmental conditions. They hold the answers to climatic variability and oscillations in climatic conditions that we are facing in today’s world. Together, these life forms interact with the physical environment to provide various types of ecosystem services to mankind: food, timber, medicines clean water, pure air, together with entertainment and relaxation.
Speaking on business and biodiversity, and where we currently are in India, PR Sinha, Country Representative, IUCN, said, “A famous ecologist said, the top environmental problems are not biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change, but rather they are selfishness, greed and apathy. When the ecosystem gets degraded, many of the services and goods that flow from it to people get impacted and the entire social fabric is tampered. What is needed today is take a cumulative assessment of the impact on the ecosystem, otherwise, with the best intentions, some of the projects may run down”. He also added, “Whenever businesses plan anything, they must look at the entire subunit of the landscape and the impact they are making, and those strategies must be taken into account during decision-making, otherwise they will face shortcomings in the long run.”
Regarding whether biodiversity poses a risk or is an opportunity for businesses, Dr. Randal Glaholt, IUCN International Biodiversity Expert, said, “All of us need to be advocates of this issue on biodiversity, and there should be a need to develop a safety culture. We need a biodiversity and sustainability culture. Biodiversity is the variety of living organisms on earth, with 8.7 million species of plants and animals, out of which only 14% are described. It’s the world’s largest free R&D service. Biodiversity is the driver of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are worth almost twice of the GDP, at about $125 trillion per year, as opposed to the $75 trillion GDP of the world. Plant-based pharmaceutical is worth $420 billion per year, forestry at $60 billion a year”.
He also added, “Biodiversity act as protecting infrastructure.Insect pollination services worldwide estimated at $189 billion per year, pest control service by US bats approximately $3 billion dollars per year. Wildlife viewing too has a tremendous economic value. Biodiversity gives infinite business opportunity in genetic resources, animal models for physiology and medicine, biomimicry. The presence of or damage to threatened species or ecosystems presents a risk to businesses, like restrictions n resource access, delays and cost overruns, difficulty in project finance, brand and share price devaluation and fines for environmental damage.” Dr Randall also went on to add, “To minimize the risk there should early consideration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in feasibility.planning phase, ensuring rigor in environmental assessments, mitigation, monitoring and adoptive management, applying the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimize, restore, offset), carrying out ecosystem services review, developing and implementing biodiversity management plans, providing an opportunity for community/industry engagement and education in biodiversity-related initiatives and so on. Intact ecosystems provide better business opportunities”.
Biodiversity is currently being lost at an unprecedented rate due to human activities that degrade or encroach on habitats, increase pollution load, and contribute to climate variability. This rapid declining of biodiversity is a huge problem for entire humanity and this can’t be averted unless relevant stakeholders come together to fight it. The business sector, being a major impact sector, can play a vital role in combating biodiversity loss. The session provided the key precedents of business playing a significant role in biodiversity conservation and management and hence set a stage for other corporates to follow.