Saving Biodiversity Boosts Global Output by Tens to Hundreds of Billions Annually

Photo: Campaign for Nature

A new study by leading economists and scientists released yesterday makes a strong case for conserving at least 30% of the planet.  The study clearly demonstrates that investing in nature as opposed to using it up yields significantly better economic results as well as saving money that would otherwise be spent on the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.  The report’s authors found that the additional environmental protections needed to achieve the 30% would lead to an average of $250 billion in increased economic output annually.  When you factor in the non-monetary benefits, conserving 30% of the planet’s benefits outweigh the costs by 5:1.  The report describes a new economic sector comprised of conserving and restoring nature that post-pandemic will grow 4-6% per year as compared to less than 1% for agriculture, timber, and fisheries.

Why This Matters:  Since it is TBT I (Monica) will harken back to 1992’s political mantra — “it’s the economy, stupid.”  Of course we “value” nature for the enjoyment we receive from it.  But it turns out nature has monetary value too.  Not just the immediate value we get from mining it or cutting it or catching it and using it once like it was single-use plastic.  Conserving a large amount of it is actually better for the bottom line.

What Does Conserving 30% Cost?

To get these benefits from nature we must invest in it — spend money conserving it — or we won’t see returns.  For example, today, we collectively spend $24.3 billion is currently spent annually to create and maintain protected areas.  But the need is much greater — it is estimated at $68 billion – and the shortfall is greatest in developing countries with the least ability to pay. The proper investment to get the maximum benefit from 30% protected is estimated at $140B annually, which is more than 5 times what we spend now.  But, but, but — it is only a fraction of what governments spend subsidizing extractive uses.  In fact, the authors calculate that government subsidies currently directed toward activities that destroy nature are three times higher than what is it would cost to achieve 30% of nature protected. And like any investment, it will take a few years to receive the dividends but the costs would be more than offset over time.  The natural areas that remain to be conserved are located in great part on the lands/waters of indigenous peoples or in low/middle-income countries.  Wealthier nations would need to bear a greater financial burden for the up-front investments required even if it does not involve their lands and waters directly.

To Go Deeper: You can read the report’s highlights here and the full report here.

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