Economic growth has devastating cost to nature: India cannot ignore Dasgupta review

Prof Patha Dasgupta

Power & Climate Policy Analyst Shankar Sharma’s letter to Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, New Delhi, with copies to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union environment, forests and climate change minister Prakash Javadekar, among others, on why India cannot afford to ignore the true relevance of the findings of Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity:

Greetings from Sagar, Western Ghats, Karnataka…

The Dasgupta Review, as referred to in the news links (click here and here), is an independent global review on the Economics of Biodiversity led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta (Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge). The Review was commissioned in 2019 by HM Treasury and has been supported by an Advisory Panel drawn from public policy, science, economics, finance and business.  This report has findings of enormous importance on how we are treating biodiversity as compared to how we should be treating it.  There is a critical need for NITI Aayog to lead other associated Ministries/agencies of the govt. in a nationwide effort to diligently study the relevance of this report to Indian scenario, and apply the much needed course corrections urgently.  

For far too long the successive governments have been ignoring many such credible reports from around the world in our blind pursuit of high GDP growth rate paradigm with disastrous consequences to our people, which were apparent to any rational observer, but which were conveniently ignored by our authorities.  However, in the context of this latest report and the earlier one “The Economics of Climate Change” by Sir Nicholas Stern, it will be suicidal for our country to ignore the associated recommendations, and such continued indifference can be construed as failing in our people’s expectations. 

The 600-page rundown of scientific material commissioned by the British government (The Dasgupta Review — a two-year global collaboration of hundreds of academics overseen by Partha Dasgupta, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Cambridge) said that all livelihoods depended on the health of the planet.  It showed that while global capital produced per person had doubled in the three decades since 1992, the stock of natural capital — that is, the quantifiable benefit an individual derives from services bestowed by nature — had plunged 40 percent.

“Never before has it been so important to consider the economics of nature and the role biodiversity plays in supporting a healthy economy,” said Guy Poppy, professor of Ecology at the University of Southampton, who was not involved in the review…  

“Two of the major challenges currently facing humankind — climate change and Covid — both illustrate the need to link economics with the environment and to rethink how we will become more prosperous and healthy in the future...

“The economic benefits of biodiversity had historically been missed from growth models, distorting the value of capital accumulation and leaving crucial conservation programmes chronically underfunded, said the review. With an estimated $4-6 trillion in funding each year going to unsustainable economic activities such as fossil fuel use and damaging farming techniques, governments “exacerbate the problem by paying people more to exploit nature than to protect it”.

Two relevant discussion papers (click here and here), which have focused on the Indian scenario, as attached below, may provide any additional impetus, if needed, for our  authorities to take the associated issues with all the seriousness they deserve.

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