Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Biodiversity in the balance



Biodiversity in the balance

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Devastating bushfire in Australia is one of the world’s numerous natural disasters this year. AFP

Biodiversity in the balance

The year 2020 is a mere seven months old, but it’s already been a bumper year for natural disasters – the devastating Australian bushfires in January, broken heat records, the most damaging locust plague in 70 years in parts of East Africa, a super cyclone in the Bay of Bengal, and the worst drought in centuries in Central Europe.

Most damaging of all, of course, has been Covid-19 – a consequence of our increasingly close contact with hitherto undisturbed ecosystems. The pandemic has revealed the massive and unpredictable interconnectedness between natural environments and global economies.

Damage to ecosystems across the world and the resulting loss of biodiversity has received less attention than other sustainability challenges – climate change risks, pollutants, poverty and conflict.

Yet the biodiversity crisis is a direct risk to humankind. It is hard to quantify given the heterogeneity of ecosystems, and it is very hard to solve. However, what is certain is that we have not found a way to continue to grow and develop that interacts with the natural world in a sustainable way.

The effects of human action on the natural world are profoundly damaging – deforestation, land degradation, pollution of the water, air and soil, hunting and harvesting, and climate change.

And as our population increases and our pursuit of economic growth continues, so the threat intensifies.

We lost an average of 60 per cent of the population of vertebrate species between 1970 and 2014.

Three-quarters of the land on earth has been “severely altered” by human actions and two-thirds of the marine environment. Around a million species are at risk if we do nothing.

Our dependence of biodiversity for food, raw materials, medicine and weather makes this trend extremely worrying.

Around 70 per cent of cancer drugs are organic or derived from natural products, for instance. Production of over 75 per cent of global food crop types relies on animal pollination.

In economic terms, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates the cost of inaction on ecosystem decline at $9.87 trillion over 2011-2050.

Like many sustainable development challenges, protecting and restoring biodiversity remains extremely complex – for investors, policymakers and communities around the world.

So perhaps there is a risk, that as policymakers and companies focus on tackling Covid-19, and then on increased debts, balance sheet damage and weak profits, that other sustainability issues might get pushed into the background.

However, as we seek to build back better from the current social, economic and environmental crisis, we have an opportunity to integrate an urgent and sizeable response to the biodiversity crisis at global and systemic levels. And we think investors can take a lead in three key ways.

First, they can support the development of a robust methodology for measuring biodiversity loss, conservation and enhancement. More data will allow the measurement of biodiversity risks, and enable markets to integrate these in valuation.

Second, investors can allocate assets towards companies which operate in environmentally sustainable ways and which produce biodiversity-positive technologies. A simple analysis contains evidence to suggest that such companies have outperformed in recent years.

And third, asset management firms should embed biodiversity protection at the heart of their approach to responsible investment through engaging with issuers, proxy voting and disclosure.

If anything, the pandemic should accelerate the focus on sustainable investing, rather than distract from it. While governments are fire-fighting, investors can step up and play a pivotal role, with potential long-term benefits for themselves – and for the planet as a whole.

The pandemic should accelerate the focus on sustainable investing, rather than distract from it.

Ashim Paun is co-head of Global ESG Research, HSBC.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement