I admit, maybe because of that intellectual slowdown that the cold weather and dark days call, but I’m confused about which one of these is the real Onion Headline – that thing about the Brookings Institute guy or a BBC headline that reads “World Bank Leads Economic Push on Nature Protection.” Really? Seriously? The World Bank? Are we sure this isn’t April Fools, not Halloween?
But no, it is serious. Or at least trying to be:
The World Bank has launched a global partnership aimed at helping countries include the costs of destroying nature into their national accounts.
Ten nations will take part in the pilot phase, including India and Colombia.
The bank’s president Robert Zoellick said environmental destruction happens partly because governments do not account for the value of nature.
The partnership was launched at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Nagoya, Japan.
“We know that human well-being depends on ecosystems and biodiversity,” said Mr Zoellick.
“We also know they’re degrading at an alarming rate.
“One of the causes is our failure to properly value ecosystems and all they do for us – and the solution therefore lies in taking full account of our ecosystem services when countries make policies.”
Norway’s Environment Minister Erik Solheim said re-valuing nature in this way would force business practices to change.
“We need to move from a situation where the benefits of ecosystem services are privatised whereas the coasts are socialised,” he said.
Now we all know that the one of the deep problems our society faces is the externalization of all environmental costs. At the same time, however, there’s something indescribably cynical about the move to put the problem of addressing this into the hands of the World Bank, which has probably done more to encourage nations to degrade their environment in the name of wealth transfer than any other institution.
Were it honestly possible to force nations and corporations to take the costs of their activities onto their balance sheets, that would be great. But somehow I don’t think the World Bank is the institution to do it. That’s too much like asking McDonalds to take on the project of raising healthy kids.