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Natural Capital and why Asia must lead the line

Asia Pacific contains a host of natural capital, but overexploitation is a serious risk to the region, and ultimately the world.

With over 60% of the current global population, 52% of the global poor and as much as 75% of the global indigenous population, the Asia Pacific region is critical in the fight against widespread loss of natural ecosystems and biodiversity; countless lives and livelihoods depend on them.

But what exactly is “Natural Capital”?

According to the OECD, natural capital “are natural assets in their role of providing natural resource inputs and environmental services for economic production.”

The economies and populations of the Asia Pacific region rely heavily on the region’s wealth of natural capital, and the vital ecosystems that it provides.

Unprecedented economic growth over the last three decades has reduced poverty and increased the quality of life for many, but it has come at an enormous cost.

Rapid urbanization and infrastructure expansion, excessive water extraction and land conversion for agriculture and industry, unsustainable aquaculture, and fossil fuel use for energy and transport have, among other human activities, degraded the region’s natural capital and increased global greenhouse gas emissions resulting in changes in climate.

This in turn has led to the further deterioration of land, soils, freshwater and marine ecosystems thereby increasing water and food insecurity and climate vulnerability, creating a vicious cycle.

This depletion, and ultimately the loss natural capital will have massive implications on human health and pose a fundamental threat to human security.

This is why Asia Pacific is a critical player to restore, protect, and sustainably manage their natural capital stocks.

The continued destruction of the vital ecosystems in Asia can lead to devasting long-term effects globally.

Declining natural capital often lies at the root of displacement, conflict, and forced migration all over the globe. Entire populations will need to uproot from lands and areas they rely on for survival and sustenance.

In the PRC, for example, increasing desertification threatens nearly 400 million people living on the nation’s agricultural periphery, increasing political risk, according to Global Risk Insights (GRI).

As the Asia Pacific region undergoes fundamental economic and social upheaval, we in the region have an opportunity now to ensure that this is not at the cost of the ecosystems that have provided for our forbears for thousands of years.