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  • Fiona Smith

Prof Dieter Helm on 'Economics in the Anthropocene: Can a NatCap Approach prevent Ecological Doom?'

Prof Dieter Helm, Professor of Economic Policy and Official Fellow in Economics at Oxford, was in Dublin last month to discuss the role of economics in a hu

man-dominated epoch - and the potential for a natural capital approach to take society off a trajectory to ecological collapse.

In this presentation at the Science Gallery on May 1st, 2019, Prof Helm, chairman of the UK's Natural Capital Committee, takes us through the analytics behind his vision for the future as detailed in his new book, Green and Prosperous Land.

He outlines the economic inefficiencies in current environmental policies and highlights how the problem of biodiversity loss and climate change might be more effectively addressed.

The scale of economic growth is the problem of the Anthropocene, he warns.

"In China, India and Africa, the economic growth rate is at least 6 per cent, in many cases higher. This means their economies will double every ten years. So in 2030 the world will have another China in economic terms, by 2040, there will be four, in 2050, there will be eight Chinas, eight Indias, eight Africas, with all the consumption that goes with it..."

He concludes that under these circumstances, sensible reforms are needed to keep the inevitable global temperature rise to no more than a 'manageable' 2 degrees, in line with the Paris Agreement.

Prof Helm maintains policymakers have traditionally been shortsighted when it comes to the correlation between the environment and human health and wellbeing. He wants more policies to prevent unthinking depletion of our natural capital to ensure they can be assets in perpetuity.

He puts forward three main principles as Economics 101 - a strict 'polluter pays policy', with public money for public good as a key way to reform agricultural policy and compensation for damage done, adding: "We should regard the environment as part of the economy - it's not environment versus the economy..."

Prof Helm also explains how the UK Government's 25-Point Plan, which he formulated with the Natural Capital Committee, is set to become a statutory requirement.

You can watch the presentation and Q&A in full below.