Biodiversity comes with a price tag

The price we pay for goods and services needs to take into account the potential impact their delivery has on wildlife, according to the European Environment Agency.

European industry and agriculture could not function without clearing forests, ploughing fields, draining wetlands and building cities and roads but this often comes at the expense of natural ecosystems.

The agency is now calling for the extent of environmental damage associated with particular goods and services to be more accurately reflected in the price tag.

It also says that external pressures on biodiversity vary from place to place and we should act to secure healthy ecosystems across the board, rather than concentrating on pockets of habitat.

Despite significant progress in certain aspects of biodiversity, the agency’s latest statistics indicate that Europe will miss its target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

The EEA is calling for better ecosystem accounting to reflect the ‘natural capital’ which we deplete through economic activity.

The idea of environmental accounting is not new, but there have always been difficulties translating theory into practice.

It is notoriously difficult to put comparative price tags on natural assets such as habitat and members of specific species.

Professor Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA, said: “External pressures on biodiversity are not uniform or held in place by geographical designations, and we must not focus all our efforts on preserving islands of biodiversity, while losing nature everywhere else.”

Sam Bond

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