All win by protecting nature, not exploiting it. That needs huge sums: buy forest rescue at $25 a year from everyone alive today.
LONDON, 4 June, 2021 − In the next 30 years, to save the planet, nations will have to spend a total of $8.1 trillion dollars. We could buy forest rescue at $25 a year − if everyone on Earth paid up.
Only big money can now address the interconnected challenges of potential climate catastrophe, the devastation of the planet’s wildlife and the degradation of the ecosystems on which humans and all other living things depend.
This is the message from a new study by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Economic Forum and an organisation called the Economics of Land Degradation: by 2030, investment in what will be called “nature-based solutions” must treble, and by 2050 have increased fourfold.
The ambition is that by 2050, the world’s public and private agencies will be spending $536 billion each year − based on 2020 figures − on direct economic investment into restoring the planet, rather than destroying any more of it.
Not so big
That sum sounds enormous. It is however precisely what the global print market was thought to be worth in 2015; it is what the Saudi Arabian stock exchange was valued at in 2019; it is what a new medical field called digital therapeutics could be worth in 2025.
It is exactly the estimate of sums raised for the sustainable bond market − investment in the “green economy” − on the London Stock Exchange in 2020.
The new report urges a re-examination of priorities, by “repurposing” agricultural and fossil fuel subsidies that now actively harm the planet: that is, harm the forests, wetlands, savannahs, mangroves and other ecosystems that underwrite all economic activity in myriad ways.
Living things soak up greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, restore water supplies, pollinate crops and provide the genetic material for new discoveries.
“We need a fundamental shift in mindset, transforming our relationship with nature”
But − as researchers have repeatedly warned − human activity has triggered an episode of mass extinction as great as any in the planet’s history.
“Biodiversity loss is already costing the global economy 10% of its output each year. If we do not sufficiently finance nature-based solutions, we will impact the capacities of countries to make progress in other vital areas such as education, health and employment,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. “If we do not save nature now, we will not be able to achieve sustainable development.”
The report’s authors think the planet will have to spend $203 bn a year from now on just to manage, conserve and restore the world’s forests: that works out at $25 a year from everybody on the planet in 2021. The pay-off would be an extra 300 million hectares, or three million square kilometres, of forest and agro-forestry plantations by 2050. This is an area of land slightly bigger than India.
Right now, the world loses 100,000 sq kms of forest − this is about the area of South Korea − every year: demand for beef, palm oil, soy, cocoa, coffee, rubber and wood fibre account for a quarter of that loss.
Right now, the world spends $133 bn a year on conservation and nature-based solutions: this is just 0.1% of global gross domestic product or GDP, the UNEP report says.
And yet, over and over again, researchers have demonstrated that the world’s forests and natural wildernesses are worth more, in strict economic terms, and to the whole world, rather than to individuals, than any profit to be gained from their destruction. The message has yet to get through.
“Our livelihoods depend on nature. Our collective failure to date to understand that nature underpins our global economic system will increasingly lead to financial losses. More than half of the world’ s total GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature,” the report says.
“In order to ensure that humanity does not breach the safety limits of the planetary boundaries, we need a fundamental shift in mindset, transforming our relationship with nature.” − Climate News Network