New Report Shows Just How Much It Would Cost to Protect Nature

Yesterday the Paulson Institute, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Cornell University released a major new report which takes the most in-depth and comprehensive analysis ever completed about biodiversity financing. Timed in conjunction with the run-up to the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the report highlights the total investment needed to fund biodiversity conservation around the world and identifies the actions that must be taken by the public and private sector in order to reach that level of investment. 

Ultimately, we’re nowhere near the level of funding we need to adequately protect biodiversity. Currently, there exists a funding gap between $598 billion and $824 billion.

Why This Matters: Through this report, for the first time, we have an understanding of the type of financial resources it will require to slow the loss of biodiversity and ensure that nature can be adequately protected in order to support human life. A recent WWF report revealed that we’ve seen a decline of 68% of wildlife species since 1970 and in 2019 the UN warned that we’re at risk of losing 1 million species if we’re not quick to act.

We need far more attention paid to the biodiversity crisis our planet is experiencing, starting with all nations investing and enforcing a goal to protect 30% of nature by 2030.

More on the Report: The Paulson Institute, TNC, an Cornell found that there is a large gap between what is spent on biodiversity and the investments needed.

  • As of 2019, the world spends between $124 and $143 billion per year on biodiversity conservation, and the report finds a necessary level of investment of between $722 and $967 billion per year.
  • This report complements the findings of an independent economic report from a global team of 100 scientists and economists released in July that focused on one specific part of the broader need to conserve biodiversity: the proposal to protect 30% of the planet’s land and water. This earlier report found that protecting 30% of the planet would require an investment of roughly $140 billion USD per year, compared to the roughly $24 billion currently spent.

Dr. Enric Sala, Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and the author of the recently published  book The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild explained that,

“Whether a new strategy to protect biodiversity will be successful will depend on whether the world invests enough in nature. Closing the financing gap will require increased funding from all sources: official development assistance, domestic governments, climate financing directed to nature-based solutions, businesses, philanthropists, and new sources of revenue or savings through regulatory and subsidy changes. 

This report shows that the funding gap is large, but that it is possible to close it.”

Other Key Insights: The report makes clear that closing the funding gap for nature begins with governments that need to do more to protect natural capital and put in place a combination of policy reforms to reduce negative impacts on biodiversity, such as reforming harmful agricultural subsidies and reducing investment risk by public and private investors.

  • Governments must also develop new financial innovations to increase available funding for conservation, promoting green investments, and supporting the development of nature-based climate solutions, natural infrastructure, and biodiversity offsets.

The private sector has a role to play but governments need to put in place the right regulatory environment, smart incentives, and market structures to increase private investment into biodiversity conservation.

Additionally, nature must be adequately economically valued. Activities that are destructive to nature must be disincentivized and those of conservation must be incentivized.

The Cost of Biodiversity Loss: As Henry Paulson, the chairman of the Paulson Institute wrote in his introductory remarks for the report,

Biodiversity loss doesn’t just mean the loss of plants and animals. It poses enormous risks to human prosperity and well-being. Science is only beginning to understand and quantify the magnitude of this impact.

  • The worldwide loss of pollinators—including bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects—well underway due to our excessive use of pesticides, would lead to an estimated drop in annual agricultural output of around US$ 217 billion.
  • Associated with this loss are the risks of famine and social unrest, potentially more serious but harder to quantify.

Furthermore, we’ve seen the staggering economic costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic, preventing future zoonotic diseases begins with protecting nature from human destruction

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