THE WORLD’S POOREST COMMUNITIES are best-placed to find solutions to local ecological crises, rather than having external solutions forced upon them, a leading economist has said.

Sir Partha Dasgupta, one of the UK’s most eminent economists, was speaking at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, as Christian Aid hosted its first annual lecture, which was followed by a conversation with Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Chair of Christian Aid.

Sir Partha, author of a recent report on the Economics of Biodiversity that was commissioned by the UK government, spoke about the immeasurable value of the biosphere – an asset upon which humans are wholly dependent – and the ways in which mainstream economics has neglected and undervalued ‘common property resources’ including forests, oceans and, most starkly in the case of the climate crisis, the atmosphere. He spoke about the importance of these common resources to poor communities in the global south, and the ways in which they are being degraded and destroyed.

Dasgupta traced this ecological destruction back to inequality and the abuse of power, and highlighted how important it is for local communities to put forward their own answers to ecological crises, rather than have external solutions foisted upon them. After the lecture, which was livestreamed globally, Dasgupta was joined in conversation by Dr Rowan Williams, who is a prominent advocate for environmental justice and climate action.

Partha Dasgupta said: “Nature is our home, we are part of Nature, and She continually furnishes us with services – climate regulation, decomposition of waste, nitrogen fixation, air and water purification, soil regeneration, pollination, and so on – without which we would not exist. Many of Nature’s processes are both silent and invisible. That makes them easy to overlook, until of course they are affected so adversely that we become aware of them, as we are today of the value of biodiversity and climate regulation.”

Patrick Watt, Christian Aid’s Director of Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns, said: “Christian Aid is delighted that so many people could join us in person and around the world to hear from Sir Partha about an issue that has such profound implications for people in poverty. Nature and the proper valuing of our common home has to be at the centre of economic decision-making before it is too late.

“The climate crisis is the biggest issue facing humanity today, and those in the poorest communities around the world are bearing the brunt of it, despite having done the least to contribute to it. This year is a crucial year in the fight for climate justice and over the next few months we are joining others in putting pressure on the UK government in the run-up to COP26, demanding action from them rather than just words.”

As part of a range of campaigning activities leading up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, Christian Aid has also joined the Young Christian Climate Network’s relay to COP26, as young walkers make their way from Cornwall to Glasgow in a pilgrimage for climate justice.

* Source: Christian Aid