Biodiversity science and policy panel calls for broadening concepts of nature’s value in sustainable development

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

Fungi 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 Briefing for policy makers of Assessment report for various values ​​and assessment of nature on 9 July 2022 at the 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’s values ​​is often overlooked in policy decisions. Effective nature-related policy decisions must be informed by a wide range of values ​​and assessment methods, which makes the IPBES Values ​​Assessment a vital scientific resource for policy and action on nature and human well-being.”

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

“The ‘priceless’ may have the highest value,” said Meine van Noordwijk, CIFOR-ICRAF Distinguished Scientific Fellow and one of 20 experts from around the world who served as ‘lead author’ for the ASSESSMENT. “For some types of decisions and decision-makers, it is important to use financial units to represent at least part of nature’s value to people, but there is always the risk that such statements will be misinterpreted.”

of ASSESSMENT it has been a four-year journey, with many rounds of feedback, peer reviews and policy consultations. Detailed discussions by the government delegates 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 through prices to core non-negotiable principles, he said. To appreciate a tree, a forest or an agroforestry landscape means interacting with many perspectives. The more people involved, the wider the set of values ​​that matter and need to be considered.

This is of great importance because of the rapid and massive loss of species that is not limited to a particular group of drivers in one or two countries, but is worldwide, pervasive and unknown.

Consumers, for example, currently do not pay a ‘true price’ for products sourced from nature (which after all are all products). Decisions by consumers and producers based on a narrow set of market values ​​for nature are the hidden driver of the global biodiversity crisis. Bringing these values ​​into the open can help people better understand the costs of over-exploitation and increase the likelihood of ensuring that values ​​- including less tangible, non-financial ones – are respected and preserved.

More importantly, the way ‘nature conservation’ is currently conceptualized often ignores the values ​​of the people living in any given ‘conservation’ area, with usually negative impact on the intended objectives for the conservation area. These people must be recognized and respectfully included in decision-making processes.

Van Noordwijk noted that from examining countries’ biodiversity reports and action plans drawn up in response to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, it is clear that less than 25% of the world’s governments are on track to integrate the values ​​of nature that are beyond the known ones. according to markets. But he also noted that current evaluation studies rarely report on their input into decisions related to government policies and programs.

The six chapters of Evaluation Report draws a distinction between ‘instrumental’ values ​​– which are those that can be measured by the goods and services provided to people by nature, biodiversity or well-functioning ecosystems – and ‘rational’ values: those that can be equally important to people. well-being in non-material ways.

The types of values ​​that are most effectively communicated depend on the audience and the context, meaning that communication is as important as the decisions that governments and others make about biodiversity conservation.

“Scientists and other people interested in this issue need to help decision makers understand so they can design policies and actions that will be effective,” he said. “In particular, drawing the attention of decision-makers to the fact that the people most dependent on an area deemed worthy of conservation should be fully included in decisions about it and that intangible values ​​- such as climate regulation, maintenance of healthy ecosystems and the water cycle – must be fully recognized.”

Van Noordwijk emphasized 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 instrumental values ​​to people at the local, national, and global levels and, thus, the economic values ​​that are at risk if the trend the current loss of biodiversity continues, and that can be partially recovered through the ‘restoration’ of degraded landscapes; and 2) engaging with stakeholders to assess and recognize the various relationship values ​​that matter to them.

“The latter can help, at least, 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, there are plenty of examples of conflicts that could be reduced or completely eradicated if these points were better understood.

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