SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT049Above:The oil-dependent, high-input,industrialised form ofagriculture, which nowdominates foodproduction around theworld, ties food pricesfirmly to the price of oiluninhabitable to fish. The UNEP's Global EnvironmentOutlook report in 2004 cited over 140 dead zonesworld-wide - among the largest and most famous beingthe one that occurs annually in the Gulf of Mexico dueto run-off from the US corn belt. In 2002, thisparticular dead zone was estimated to be the size ofMassachusetts. Furthermore, a recent report fromDenmark suggested a possible scenario, where acombination of higher temperatures and increasedlevels of carbon dioxide leads to a rise in thesepersistent dead zones from just under two per cent ofoceans (today) to in excess of 20 per cent (by 2100).It is perhaps worth noting that 25 per cent of thecarbon dioxide we emit is absorbed by the oceans. But,it appears that the capacity of the oceans to continuethis function is decreasing due to the loss of coastalhabitat: for example 13.5 giga-tonnes of carbondioxide will be released within the next 50 years as aresult of mangrove clearance that occurred between1980 and 2005 (much of this due to shrimp farmingfor the European market). This is equivalent to alltransport-related emissions in 27 EU countries over a15-year period from 1997 to 2005. In addition tothese problems, the health and productivity of ouroceans is also at threat from over-fishing, climatechange, toxic pollution, invasive species and habitatdegradation. These multiple threats make it imperativethat a holistic and precautionary approach is adoptedin order to manage marine ecosystems so as to ensuremaximum food security benefit from fisheries andwhile understanding the carbon-related consequences?
of assuming that aquaculture will be able to fill the protein gap from the precipitous decline of wild fisheries.I suspect I may not be alone in thinking it strange, tosay the least, that, globally, despite subsidies in theregion of US$16 billion of public money every year, weappear to be close to bringing the fishing industry to itsknees. It is worth recognising that the fishing industrycontributes over US$200 billion a year to global GDP,but may not be able to do so for much longer. But here,in the midst of such a big problem, lies a potentialsolution which could be of use to the other sectoralchallenges we face. Research into the state and futureof the North East Atlantic Bluefin Tuna fisheryestimates that subsidies of around US$120 millionreturn an annual profit of only around US$70 million.The research found that a sustainable future for thefishery, even without subsidies, could produce annualprofits of US$310 million per year, if tuna stocks couldrecover to a sustainable level. The World Bank's ownestimates suggest that if we were to eradicate theperverse subsidies which currently exist, curboverfishing and improve ineffective management, then the global fishing industry could contributeUS$250 billion per year to global GDP, and on asustainable basis. This offers at least hope of a long-term cure, rather than a short-term form of relief andone from which the vast majority of stakeholders wouldbenefit. I know it would require difficult decisions andeven more difficult implementation measures. But, ifwe lift our eyes from the "here and now" and look tothe future, I wonder if we really have any alternative?I hope you can see my point. Essentially, we have to domore today to avert the catastrophes of tomorrow, andwe can only do that by changing the way we frame ourapproach to the economic problems that confront us.If we are to make our agricultural and marine systemsresilient in the long-term, for instance, we have todesign policies in every sector that bring the true costsof environmental destruction and the depletion ofnatural capital to the fore. Having looked at theseissues for very nearly thirty years and, being fortunateenough to have consulted some of the world's mosteminent experts, I wonder if I might just share with youa couple of observations about how it seems to me, atleast, it might be possible to do this? I would certainlysuggest that social and economic stability is built onvaluing and supporting local communities and theirtraditions, recognising as does the Report from theInternational Assessment for Agriculture Knowledge,Science and Technology for Development, recognisingthe contribution which, for example, diverse farmingsystems make to economic and ecosystem resilience.Policies that encourage diverse landscapes,communities and products can generate all sorts of positive results, not just in agriculture, but intourism, forestry and industry. So, there is a need forpolicies that focus funding on strengthening diversity.Might there be, perhaps, benefit in public financebeing more specifically directed using "smartsubsidies?" The aim would be to target a diversity ofproduction in more specific ways while protectingpublic goods. This is vital if we are to strengthen theresilience of our agriculture, marine and energysystems so that they can ensure supply and thuswithstand those sudden shocks on internationalmarkets which are bound to come our way, given theimpact of climate change.I would also suggest we need a different approach toprofit and loss which would support Corporate SocialEnvironmental and Economic Responsibility and giveus the means to evaluate the impact of our actionsproperly. This was, incidentally, what drove me to setup my Accounting for Sustainability project six yearsago. The aim was to develop a new approach tobusiness reporting which reflects the interconnectedimpact of financial, environmental and social elementson an organisation's long-term performance. And, Imust say, I am delighted that an increasing number oforganisations - including the British Government andinternational groups like EDF Energy, HSBC and Aviva- are adopting this system of "Integrated Reporting."In fact, last year I expanded the project by launchingan international group, supported by many of theworld's accounting and standard-setting bodies, as050SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT" "I CANNOT SEE HOW WE CAN POSSIBLYMAINTAIN THEGROWTH OF GDP IN THE LONG TERM IF WE CONTINUE TO CONSUME OUR PLANET AS VORACIOUSLYAS WE ARE DOINGPhoto: © European Union, 2011