New Govt report concludes that the value of nature is £0

Justin Francis, CEO, Responsible Travel

Today, a report commissioned by the UK Treasury concluded that nature, and our futures, are screwed unless we entirely re think our economic model. Its impact on all sectors of business, including tourism will be profound.

Billed as the equivalent of the Stern Report into the economics of carbon, widely heralded as being instrumental in convincing Govt and businesses to act on carbon, the Dasgupta report examined how we value nature and biodiversity.

It concluded that our economic system places no value at all on nature. Business may damage or exploit it without any cost to them.

There is a very real cost to the loss of nature, including food insecurity (no insects to pollinate crops, soil destroyed by chemicals), dirty water and poor air quality, but it is borne by society – the poorest first – rather than business.

If that wasn’t bad enough we pay business to destroy nature - £3-4tn are given globally in subsidies each year. Try explaining that one to future generations.

The report recommends replacing GDP, or adapting it to account for losses in the natural world, and creating new super national institutions to protect ‘public goods’ such as rainforests.


The tourism industry relies on a few stories of making ‘wildlife worth more alive than dead’, for example Gorilla tourism, but considers its impacts too narrowly. It is one of the world’s greatest freeloaders on nature, packaging it up for profit, without facing the costs of its impacts or conservation.

In the future, the vacation that trashes nature to keep costs down, will go from the cheapest to the most expensive. In my opinion the cruise sector, with air and marine pollution, will be first in line.

The tourism industry will bleat that it will make vacations more expensive for an average family, blind to the fact that most of the world never takes a vacation, and that the world’s poorest and our children will pay the price for their protectionist views.

Regulation is already changing

Lest you think this is all pie in the sky hippy thinking it’s already happening in other industries. I worked with the Govt to secure new planning legislation to require house builders to leave more biodiversity behind after their development than before. The UK is replacing existing farm subsidies with payments linked to conservation, clean air and water.

And finally

Oscar Wilde said that we know the price of everything, but the value of nothing. It’s time we properly valued nature, and made sure those who damage it meet the costs. Our futures depend on it.

Written by Justin Francis