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Conservation finance: It is time to press on with sustainability

Why it doesn’t make sense that economic theory has kept natural capital as an externality.


A focus on just three of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would produce a domino effect that would see nearly all of the other goals reached, according to a paper put out by the University of Bath in September. The three were gender equality, life below water and life on land. 

They are not three topics that the financial industry has traditionally embraced, although in recent years, gender equality has attracted more attention from institutions either through regulation, shareholder pressure or through market forces that have led to the creation of gender lens investments and more focused financial advice for women

But the second and third of these SDGs that refer to nature have not enjoyed similar attention. They are the least funded of the SDGs, despite repeated warnings from the scientific community over the last 50 years that nature needs to have a price. It is neither free nor inexhaustible. 

Natural capital

It doesn’t make sense that economic theory has kept natural capital as an externality. 

Natural capital and the ecosystem services it provides have always been the fuel for human economic growth and expansion, from the hundreds of thousands of trees used to build fleets for exploration and war, to its provision of penicillin, chemotherapy drugs and materials used to make computers, smartphones and spacecraft.

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