Economics makes room for nature
Given the complex challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the distress and uncertainty it has caused, climate change, and the scale of global biodiversity loss, there is an urgent need to look at nature-based solutions going forward. As Prof. Partha Dasgupta notes, “It is only a matter of time before economics makes room for nature. The sooner the better.” He suggests that our economy now needs to consider nature as three facts are undeniable. First, when nature depreciates, the result can be irreversible (or, at best, can take a very long time to recover). Second, it is not possible to replace a depleted or degraded ecosystem by a new one. Third, ecosystems can collapse abruptly and without warning.
This thinking already drives much of our work in the HKH. We are working with partners and government agencies in balancing conservation and development dilemmas in natural resources management. Our dedicated theme on Ecosystem Services and the integrated approach of our Transboundary Landscape Regional Programme highlight the need for conservation at scale to improve wellbeing, preserve critical habitats, and sustain the life-supporting functions of nature. We are also addressing mountain vulnerabilities through our Resilient Mountain Solutions Initiative, which seeks to address several prevailing challenges through simple, effective and scalable nature-based solutions. Encouraging community to community interactions for conserving shared transboundary natural heritage; empowering women-led organizations to restore degraded ecosystems; advocating mountain foods as niche products for nutrition and food security; promoting rural tourism in transboundary areas; and providing policy inputs to member countries on REDD+ are some of the nature-based solutions that we have promoted in recent years.
A call to action
Last year, based on the HKH Assessment and through a deeply and broadly consultative process we developed with the eight HKH governments, a HKH Call to Action outlining six urgent actions to sustain mountain environments and improve the livelihoods of people in the region. Action 5, in particular, focuses on enhancing ecosystem resilience for sustained flow of services by halting biodiversity loss and land degradation, and sustainably managing forests and other ecosystems in the HKH through transboundary cooperation across landscapes and river basins. This action requires an integrated approach that encompasses socio-ecological systems and upstream downstream linkages at transboundary scale. It also emphasizes transdisciplinary and multistakeholder engagement that promotes gender equality, empowerment of local communities and contributes to sustainable development goals and commitments made by our eight HKH countries under the Convention on Biological Diversity and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, among others.
It is time to come together to revisit this urgent action in light of the pandemic and the need to protect the global asset that is the HKH. Nearly half the world depends on it.
Wishing you all a happy World Environment Day!
David James Molden