The great acceleration of the global economy over the past 70 years has boosted average income and life expectancy. However, these benefits have not been equitably shared and have come at a great cost to our natural systems.
Biodiversity is declining faster than at any other time in history, and this has grave consequences on our livelihoods, health and prosperity. More than half of the world’s GDP is at risk due to nature loss, and further encroachment into natural ecosystems increases the risk of future socioeconomic shocks such as pandemics.
Nevertheless, there is much to be hopeful for, as collaborations and innovations to safeguard nature gain momentum.
On the International Day for Biological Diversity, we must celebrate the potential of nature to solve many of the global problems we are facing and take stock of the steps towards a nature-positive future that many organizations have taken in recent years.
Partners of the World Economic Forum’s Nature Action Agenda initiative, such as Unilever, Walmart and Kering, have announced ambitious commitments to address biodiversity loss in their business activities. The business value of doing so is clear.
According to a recent World Economic Forum report, transitioning towards nature-positive economic models in key sectors could provide almost 400 million jobs and over $10 trillion in annual business value by 2030.
Protecting biodiversity is not an easy task. But the Nature Action Agenda is working tirelessly with other public and private organisations to collaborate on and scale solutions that ensure the stability of our societies and economies.
Here’s why the restoration of biodiversity matters to jobs, health and the economy:
Biodiversity provides livelihoods.
The agricultural sector employs over 60% of the world’s working poor and, in the Global South, forests are the source of livelihoods for over 1.6 billion people. Additionally, the “restoration economy”—which includes the restoration of natural landscapes—provides more jobs in the US than most of the extractives sector, with the potential to create even more. Nature-positive businesses can provide cost-effective, robot-proof, business-friendly jobs that stimulate the rural economy without harming the environment.
Biodiversity ensures health and food security.
Millions of species work together to provide us with the large array of fruits, vegetables and animal products essential for a healthy, balanced diet. Three crops – wheat, corn and rice – provide almost 60% of total plant-based calories consumed by humans. This simplification of diets has led to reduced resiliency in our supply chains and on our plates, with one-third of the world suffering from micronutrient deficiencies.
Biodiversity helps fight disease.
Plants are essential for medicines. For example, 25% of drugs used in modern medicine are derived from rainforest plants. Biodiversity loss is also linked to increases in disease as humans encroach into untouched nature through deforestation and urbanization. An estimated 43% of emerging infectious diseases come from wildlife.
“There are some four million different kinds of animals and plants in the world. Four million different solutions to the problems of staying alive,” said Sir David Attenborough, broadcaster, writer and naturalist.
Biodiversity benefits business.
There is great potential for the economy to grow and become more resilient by protecting biodiversity. Global sales of pharmaceuticals based on materials of natural origin are worth an estimated $75 billion a year, while natural wonders such as coral reefs are essential to food and tourism. Protecting biodiversity in agriculture and food production alone could unlock $4.5 trillion per year in new business opportunities by 2030, while also preventing trillions of dollars worth of social and environmental harms.
Biodiversity protects us.
Biodiversity makes the earth habitable. Biodiverse ecosystems provide nature-based solutions that buffer us from natural disasters such as floods and storms, filter our water and regenerate our soils. Protecting and restoring natural ecosystems is also vital to fighting climate change. Nature-based solutions could provide 37% of the cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed by 2030 to maintain global warming within 2°C.
This article by Akanksha Khatri, Head, Nature and Biodiversity, World Economic Forum, originally appeared on the website of the World Economic Forum. Reprinted here (with minor edits) by permission.