Home to approximately 6% of the world’s biodiversity, the Heart of Borneo (HoB) is one of earth’s richest biological treasure troves. HoB’s forests cover upstream and midstream portions of 29 river basins and provide important ecosystem services across an area of 54 million ha, more than 70% of Borneo, benefiting over 11 million people.
HoB’s natural capital has tremendous social and economic value at local, national and global levels. This includes social values related to traditional knowledge and sacred sites, the value of biodiversity and ecosystems in creating resilience to a changing climate and the value of ecosystem goods and services used as inputs within multiple sectors of Borneo’s economy. However, the many values of HoB’s natural capital remains poorly recognized.
While still of great importance, HoB’s natural capital has been sharply eroded in recent years. As natural capital is lost, ecosystem goods and services decline. Climate change, coupled with deteriorating ecosystems and biodiversity from land use change, is having further impacts, including sea level rise, risk of floods and fires and changes in the duration and intensity of wet and dry seasons.
Borneo’s economy is currently neither supporting readiness for climate change nor adequately serving the needs of its people. The unsustainable practices of one economic sector are having impacts on other sectors and on local people. Few industries are taking into account the high costs of reduced or lost ecosystem services, which are eroding their long-term economic prospects and viability. According to a Business-as-Usual (BAU) scenario, by 2020 the env ironmental costs of economic growth are estimated to outweigh revenues from natural capital.
The many values of HoB’s natural capital—including its critical role in the economy, in supporting broader human welfare and in creating resilience to climate change—remain poorly recognized. Traditional economic measures such as GDP fail to account for natural capital’s role in determining productivity, while most ecosystem goods and services lack markets and prices.
Shifting to a green economy that values and invests in natural capital would help to sharply reduce many of these negative trends, while supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation. Its creation depends on the incorporation of natural capital values into economic policies and private sector decision making.
A modeling approach indicates that shifting to an alternative, green economy which recognizes the value of natural capital is feasible. The potential benefits of such a shift include reduced poverty, more rapid growth, stronger local economies and enhanced resilience to climate change. In the long term, growth will increase more rapidly under a Green Economy (GE) scenario where natural capital is sustained. A green economy is essential to ensuring long-term, sustainable economic growth and development.
HoB is a prime example of a coordinated transboundary approach in which a green economy vision—as outlined in the HoB Declaration—is being transformed into reality. However, urgent action is still required by governments and other stakeholders, working in partnership. The cost of action is far less than the cost of inaction.