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International Legislators Call Attention to Costs of Ecosystem Destruction

A group of international legislators met in Nairobi on Monday to press world leaders on taking urgent action to stem the widespread destruction of natural resources. The legislators say the resulting loss of ecosystems worldwide is costing the globe trillions of dollars each year.

The legislators representing 18 different countries are part of a group called the Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment, or GLOBE.

The group is establishing a commission to develop specific policy suggestions for world leaders to help them better understand the true long-term costs associated with the destruction of natural resources.

According to Ian Johnson, chairman of the international commission, new scientific and economic tools are enabling researchers to calculate more accurately the actual monetary costs associated with ecosystem destruction.

The results are staggering. According to a recent study, an estimated $2 to $5 trillion of natural resources are lost each year just due to deforestation and overfishing costs the world $50 billion annually.

"One of the things that we do now understand is that there is tremendous value - economic, financial value - in managing our natural capital, our natural resources, worldwide in a much better way than we have done," Johnson said.

He noted that each year in which serious action is not taken is a year lost but expressed confidence that when leaders worldwide see the stark economic statistics combined with specific policy proposals, the issue will receive the attention it deserves.

"Time isn't on our side; time is running out. But if we take action, we can correct what we are doing to our earth. But it will require legislation; it will require regulation; it will require financing. And I think our politicians and our parliamentarians from around the world can be great advocates for pushing the kind of legislation that will enable that," said Johnson.

Among the policy steps discussed by the commission is the creation of an international payment scheme designed to protect tropical forests. Under the proposal, the price of timber from these areas will include the product's overall value to the ecosystem, such as the resource's carbon-storing capabilities.

The commission will also prioritize proposing policy solutions to salvage diminishing fish stocks worldwide.

The legislators suggested that although the issue of climate change receives more headlines, the crisis of eroding ecosystems is just as serious of an emergency.

Bob Mills, an advisor to the commission, says that in fact the destruction of wooded ecosystems is strongly impairing the planet's abilities to slow a changing climate. He says that African leaders should be among the most concerned with the commission's findings since the continent will receive the brunt of the impact from the ecosystems and climate shifts.

"I think that probably Africa will feel the implications most and will be least able to adapt to the changes happening. So whether its the moving of the deserts, whether its the lack of water, it will be the poor countries that will be most impacted and unable to respond," said Mills.

African countries represented by legislators at the meeting included South Africa, Cameroon, and Ghana.