Hilary Benn sets out importance of valuing nature

Delivering the tenth annual Darwin Initiative lecture in London last night, Secretary of State Hilary Benn argued that we take our natural capital for granted at our peril, and that only by putting a monetary value on ecosystems and biodiversity will we succeed in advocating for and protecting nature.

Fluently making the human case for protecting ecosystem services, Mr. Benn pointed towards the ongoing TEEB report (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) as potentially representing a turning point in wider attitudes to nature conservation. He expressed the belief that whilst 2009 has become the year of climate change, 2010 really would be the year of biodiversity, with widespread progress being made on multiple fronts.

Looking forward, the Minister argued for the creation of an IPCC-equivalent for biodiversity and expressed the UK’s strong support for current discussions regarding the establishment of a biodiversity and ecosystems services-focussed international scientific organisation. He called for a credible new biodiversity target, not only underpinned by science but also measurable by science, the importance of including biodiversity, especially forests, in any global climate change deal, and the need for a new system of marine governance. Above all however, he stated the need for better-informed policies across government, pointing towards the TEEB as a crucial means of encouraging other government departments and public bodies to take account of the true long-term costs of not conserving our natural capital.