NEWS 2024-05-03

Bringing nature into decision making

It is time to put nature at the centre of decision-making, for the sake of our civilisation. That is a message in a special issue examining some of the challenges and most promising solutions for bringing nature into decision-making at scale, highlighting successful cases in a variety of sectors.

“Contemporary economic development has led to dramatic decline of the natural world according to a wide range of metrics. There is also powerful evidence and growing recognition that this decline matters—not only because of the intrinsic value of Earth’s biodiversity, but also because the degradation of the web of life threatens human well-being today, social and economic progress, and even the future of our civilization.”

This is how Beijer fellow Gretchen Daily (Stanford University) and Yadvinder Malhi (Oxford University) begin to explain the current situation in a preface to the recent special issue in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, which they have co-edited with Beijer Institute director Carl Folke and other colleagues.

“Value and importance of the natural world is not sufficiently accounted for in economic or other decision-making processes, and bringing nature into decision-making provides the potential for a systemic solution to this challenge”, they continue.

On the up side, is that awareness of the biodiversity crisis has improved, resulting in high-level calls to ‘bend the curve’ of biodiversity loss within a decade, and initiatives such as the 2022 Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework, has brought new momentum for policy and led to a flurry of new nature-focused legislation at supernational, national and city levels.

Moreover, there has been substantial progress in integrating nature into decision-making in a variety of sectors and regions, and there is an increasing number of approaches to the challenge of scale.

The power of shared narratives

In the final article Carl Folke and Beijer Institute programme director J. Marty Anderies (Arizona State University) argues that a paradigm shift in addressing the climate crisis and other global challenges is long overdue.

As a way forward, they explore deeper questions of the need for meaning and purpose in our relationships with the biosphere, beyond practical tools for nature valuation and accounting. They ask what collective shared stories—imagined orders—we can tell ourselves that enable us to revitalize meaningful and nurturing relationships with nature and the global biosphere in the Anthropocene.

“Incremental adjustment of existing institutions and organizations is unlikely to be sufficient to address the current global-scale challenge of our broken relationship with nature”, they argue.

They try to sketch out some of the elements of such a collective story. These elements include recognition of global intertwining between humanity and the biosphere, navigating human actions and societies within a global safe operating space, active stewardship encouraged by appreciation of and experiencing and the unique context of life on Earth, and recognition of contemporary and intergenerational justice.

To the article

Other challenges and promising solutions for bringing nature into decision-making at scale discussed in the special issue include:

  • Assigning values to nature which are then embedded in key environmental policy instruments: protected areas for nature and payments for ecosystem services.
  • Highlighting the pioneering approach in Costa Rica with a system giving value to standing forests which reversed deforestation.
  • The transnational corporations who are taking nature into account in their decision-making who all share similar critical success factors.
  • The development of national natural capital accounts to increase integration of the values of nature into decision-making.
  • Cities that have enhanced urban nature and reveal what lessons can be learned for replicating and scaling up models of success.
  • Children’s exposure to nature in the school environment showing enhanced benefits for children’s physical and mental health, focus at school, and nurturing of pro-nature attitudes.
  • The global intertwining between humanity and the biosphere, navigating human actions and societies within a global safe operating space.

To the special issue