Biodiversity and Sustainability: Reinforcing Nature as an Asset – Speech by Deborah Lehr, Vice Chairman and Executive Director of Paulson Institute



Speech by Deborah Lehr at the Second Dialogue of the China-Europe-America Net-Zero Transition Platform

Click the image to watch the video

About the Speaker

Debora Lehr is an accomplished global business strategist who has supported leading global firms and organizations to grow their presence in the world’s most complex markets. Deborah has applied her business acumen and policy knowledge to launch the Antiquities Coalition, which works with governments across the world to fight against antiquities trafficking and its use in funding terrorism and organized crime. She is on the Board of the World Monuments Fund, the Middle East Institute, the International Advisory Board of the London School of Economics, and the Sesame Workshop Global Advisory Board. Deborah is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. UNESCO has nominated Deborah as one of its inaugural list of accomplished global women. She also received the prestigious Hadrian Award from the World Monument Fund for her work in fighting the illicit trade in antiquities.

Full Text

Hello, I'm Deborah Lehr, Executive Director of the Paulson Institute, and delighted to be joining this conference on China-Europe-American Net-Zero Transition. Many thanks to David Gosset for bringing us all together for this interesting discussion.

At the Paulson Institute, we are focused on sparking creativity and innovation to advance sustainable growth and a cleaner environment around the world. One of the major issues that we are focused on is the global decline of biodiversity, an issue that is closely related to the climate challenge, but in many ways is even more alarming. So, I'd like to spend the next few minutes briefly explaining the challenge as I see it and suggest some solutions that I believe can make a difference.

Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, scientists estimate that our planet is now losing species at 1,000 times the natural rate. If we continue on the path that we are on, we face a future where up to 50% of all species could be lost by the middle of the 21st century. This poses enormous risks to human prosperity and wellbeing.

The demise of the world's coral reefs, for example, will put at risk 4,000 species of fish and approximately a half billion people who depend on the coral reef ecosystems for food, coastal protection and employment. Damage to Australia's Great Barrier Reef alone could cost 1 billion a year in income from tourism spending and threaten 10,000 jobs.

A key reason we are in this mess is that our political and economic systems do not properly account for the services that nature provides. When we don't put a value on natural capital, as policymakers often consider nature's benefits free, and as a result, they are valued at zero. But even if we can't calculate the full value of nature, we know enough to understand that its destruction presents profound risks, and as with any serious risk we face, the rational response is to hedge.

In the case of biodiversity loss, this means taking a comprehensive worldwide effort to approximately value protect and restore nature. Governments should begin addressing this challenge by reforming harmful agricultural subsidies for forestry, fisheries, and farming. This would cost little or nothing. And these perverse subsidies could be changed to still incentivized production while limiting our damage to natural capital. We also need better infrastructure planning, given the trillions of dollars invested in infrastructure, it's important to mainstream biodiversity related risk management practices in ways that mitigate damage.

Finally, financial investors and lenders should be required to do more to disclose the environmental impacts of their financing and lending decisions. Ultimately, it's far cheaper to prevent environmental damage in the first place than it is to clean it up afterwards. In the areas where we can make the biggest difference, we don't need to spend a lot of money. We just need to spend some political will.

Thank you, and I wish you the best for today's event.


Copyright ©2022 China-Europe-America Global Initiative  All Rights Reserved.