Protecting biodiversity could avert global economic losses of $2.7 trillion per year

A new World Bank report estimates that the collapse of select ecosystem services provided by nature – such as wild pollination, provision of food from marine fisheries and timber from native forests – could result in a decline in global GDP of $2.7 trillion annually by 2030.

The Economic Case for Nature underscores the strong reliance of economies on nature, particularly in low-income countries. The report highlights that Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia would suffer the most relative contraction of real GDP due to a collapse of ecosystem services by 2030: 9.7 percent annually and 6.5 percent, respectively. This is due to a reliance on pollinated crops and, in the case of Sub-Saharan Africa on forest products, as well as a limited ability to switch to other production and consumption options that would be less affected.

“Preserving nature and maintaining its services are critical for economic growth,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “Nature-smart policies and reforms, including agricultural subsidy reform and investments in agricultural innovation enhance biodiversity and economic outcomes. As countries seek to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that economic development improves outcomes for nature.”

World Bank Lead Environmental Economist Giovanni Ruta said that it was a combination of policies that showed the greatest win-wins for both biodiversity and for economies and adding investment in research and development to the policy mix is particularly important and beneficial to developing countries,” said 

The report was undertaken in close collaboration with the University of Minnesota and Purdue University, and comes as countries are set to formulate a new global biodiversity framework at a Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China.

Nature smart-policies will be crucial to implement the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The Kunming COP is also seen as an opportunity to adopt actionable targets, such as the protection of 30% of land and 30% of oceans by 2030 (known as the “30×30” target). The report argues that the ecosystem service benefits accruing from achieving the 30×30 target would almost completely offset the opportunity costs generated by protecting additional land to meet the target.

Investments in ecosystem services must be made in a way that exploits synergies with climate change mitigation and adaptation, as this strengthens the case for action. For example, when forest carbon payment schemes are implemented, either at the domestic or global level, other domestic policies like agriculture subsidy reform become more effective at protecting nature while enhancing economic gains.

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