Address from the Editor-in-Chief
Significant Achievements of 2016 (25th) Blue Planet Prize laureates
The 2016 Blue Planet Prize was awarded to Mr. Pavan Sukhdev of India and Prof. Markus Borner of Switzerland. The prize recognizes the potentially significant influence their achievements may have on major global environmental trends, protection of the ecosystem and the preservation of biodiversity.
Although not yet broadly understood as such, the year 2015 was an extremely important turning point for the global environment and our history as a species. That turning point is embodied in the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and ESG investment.
Some may not be familiar with the term ESG investment. ESG investment takes environment (E), society (S), and governance (G) into consideration. Investment in pension fund management has become significant because the amount of money in these programs is tremendous, which makes long-term, stable investment a priority. While the Paris Agreement is, as was stated in the introduction, established for climate justice, pension funds are established for ESG justice.
The ESG concept will continue to serve as a principle for human activity into the future. Here, I will explain the 2016 Blue Planet Awards in relation to this concept.
Mr. Pavan Sukhdev's achievements in the field of environmental economics are highly regarded. He has contributed to the development of a comprehensive green economy focusing on including the value of resources from the ecosystem, which are often thought to be cost-free, into corporate business activities.
Certain highly influential reports argue that all economic activity must take the environment into greater account. The first of these reports was the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change released in 2007. The report estimated that the total cost of action taken to reduce greenhouse gases would be about 1% of global gross domestic product (GDP) while the total cost of climate change resulting from inaction would be the equivalent to a GDP loss of from 5% to more than 20%.
At that time, we understood the impact our economic activities were having on climate change and the depletion of resources; however, Mr. Sukhdev expanded this to show the serious impact that businesses were having on biodiversity and other aspects of the environment. This is his most significant contribution to our understanding.
He made significant contributions as the leader of research on the Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity (TEEB), which formed the basis of the report published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). First published in 2008, the report has grown year by year.
Mr. Sukhdev applied the TEEB concept in his book on management entitled "Corporation 2020. " The main idea is that because natural resources are not free, companies need to include the cost of their use and the impact of their business activity on them in their corporate accounting.
Corporate management considers a healthy environment to be natural capital; however, it is rarely included in corporate accounting. Established by Mr. Sukhdev, the Natural Capital Coalition works with member companies to change the corporate concept of profit as the primary goal. I really hope this idea will become the major trend in society.
The other prize winner, Prof. Markus Borner, contributed to regional activities aimed at the conservation of nature. His first project was a survey on the Sumatoran rhinoceros in Indonesia, the topic of his doctoral dissertation.
As a member of the Frankfurt Zoological Society, Prof. Markus Borner worked to provide support for the establishment of a new national park in Tanzania, Africa. After the conflict between Tanzania and a neighboring country was resolved, he worked on the improvement and expansion of Serengeti National Park.
The biggest issue was poaching for ivory and rhinoceros horns, criminal activity backed by big money paid by large organizations. One national preserve saw its population of 1 million elephants dwindle to 30,000 within a few years. The black rhinoceroses were in critical danger with only two females remaining alive. Prof. Borner introduced about 30 black rhinoceroses from South Africa to the area, striving to protect them under the regulations of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). His efforts resulted in increasing the number to 120.
He argued that preventing poaching would take more than the introduction and enforcement of laws, insisting that it would be necessary to raise the awareness of the residents in the area about the importance of conservation, provide jobs in the national park service that offer competitive salaries, and make vehicles and wireless devices available for monitoring the park. He also worked to protect individual land rights as well as animal rights.
His biggest contribution was to show to the world the need for long-term governance (G) for natural resource conservation to develop a society (S) in which residents can live comfortably while exerting effort to conserve the natural environment (E). This is his most important message.
Recently, each country seems to focus on its own economic situation. I am anxious that because of frequent terrorism, the world is now becoming more chaotic. I believe that promoting the ESG concept will help solve a wide range of problems in the future.
Former Vice-Rector, United Nations University
Professor Emeritus, The University of Tokyo