WEF: New Report Finds That Failing To Conserve Nature Is Risky Business

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is issuing three reports this year, and it published the second one yesterday in which it argues that addressing the global nature crisis requires “a critical shift towards nature-positive models in three key socio-economic systems: food, land and ocean use; infrastructure and the built environment; and extractives and energy.”  According to the Report, climate change is currently responsible for between 11% and 16% of biodiversity loss, while the three socioeconomic systems above are responsible for 80% of species loss combined.  Food, land, and ocean use are the most harmful to biodiversity, followed by the built environment and then energy. On the flip side, 15 transitions in the three key socio-economic systems could deliver $10.1 trillion of annual business opportunities and 395 million jobs by 2030.

Why This Matters:  This analysis makes clear what needs to be fixed to get the most benefit for biodiversity — agriculture — and why making the changes will be good for the global economy and jobs.  Transitioning from the current economic systems will be difficult because they provide up to two-thirds of all jobs currently.  But the report strongly argues that if we can make the $2.7T investment needed to transition to business models that conserve nature, it will unlock even greater economic opportunities.  

The 15 Needed Transitions That Businesses Can Drive

“The new normal must require economic recovery to be on a sustainable path post COVID-19,” said Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, and he added, “businesses need to step up and unlock these benefits by properly investing in nature.”

  • Currently, the global food, land and ocean use system (including the full supply chain) represents around US$10 trillion of GDP (12% of global GDP) and up to 40% of employment. But the “hidden” costs of the system — estimated US$12 trillion — that are even higher.  If we could transform the food, land and ocean use systems, it could create almost US$3.6 trillion of additional annual revenues or cost savings, while creating 191 million new jobs by 2030.
  • Similarly, the built environment contributes an estimated 40% of global GDP but the footprint of the built environment has increased by 66% in the first 12 years of this century and every week until 2030, around 1.5 million people will be added to cities. If we could transform the built environment through better urban planning and nature-based infrastructure, it could create over US$3 trillion of additional annual revenues or cost savings and create 117 million jobs by 2030.
  • And finally, energy and extraction contribute an estimated 23% of global GDP and 16% of employment, but their negative externalities – air pollution and carbon emissions – equate to at US$9 trillion annually or around 10.5% of global GDP. If we transform these sectors to a more circular and resource-efficient economy, it could create 87 million jobs by 2030.

The First Report

The World Economic Forum is spending this year highlighting the New Nature Economy.  Its first report in the series published in January before the COVID pandemic went global, entitled Nature Risk Rising, highlighted that $44 trillion of economic value generation – over half the world’s total GDP – is potentially at risk as a result of the dependence of business on nature and its services. According to WEF Global Risk Report, also published in January in conjunction with its annual meeting, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse rank as one of the top five threats humanity will face in the next 10 years.

Graphic: World Economic Forum

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