The cost of biodiversity loss

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To reverse the decline in biodiversity by 2030, a recent analysis suggests that, globally, we need to spend between US$ 722-967 billion each year over the next ten years. That puts the biodiversity financing gap at an average US$ 711 billion or between US$ 598-824 billion per year, according to a new study by Paulson Institute, The Nature Conservancy and Conrnell Atkinson Center on Sustainability. 


The authors of Financing Nature. Closing the Global Financing Gap of Biodiversity estimated financial flows into global biodiversity conservation in 2019 as between US$ 124 and US$ 143 billion. This represents a near-tripling in funding since 2012 but, to put it in context, spending on agricultural, forestry, and fisheries subsidies that degrade nature is at least two to four times greater. And that does not include subsidies for fossil fuels.


The report is among the first analyses to include the cost of shifting agriculture, infrastructure, and other high-impact sectors to more sustainable business practices. According to the authors, this is important because, without making substantial changes to the sectors degrading nature, the international community won’t halt biodiversity loss—no matter how significant actions are in other areas.


Earth is experiencing dramatic and accelerating biodiversity loss caused by human activities. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, scientists estimate the world is now losing species at up to 1,000 times the natural rate of one to five species per year. The abundance of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians has declined, on average, by 60 percent over the last four decades—the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. If human society continues on this trajectory, we face a future where 30 to 50 percent of all species may be lost by the middle of the 21st century.

Biodiversity is essential for the health of our planet, yet it is in a sharp decline, driven mainly by human behavior. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) recently warned that humans are exploiting nature far more rapidly than it can renew itself.

As the world works to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and restore our economies, we could easily forget the value of nature, but that would be a mistake. Research from the World Economic Forum shows that US$ 44 trillion of global GDP—around half—is highly or moderately dependent on nature.  Here’s just one small example: the worldwide loss of all pollinators (including bees, butterflies, moths and other insects) would lead to a drop in annual agricultural output of about US$ 217 billion.

Read on at Paulson Institute

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