The conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity is the foundation of a sustainable economy. Water, food, shelter and energy are the building blocks upon which life and economic systems are built. The resilience of the global economy is intricately linked to the state of the environment.
Business also affects, and needs, biodiversity. Billions of people work in the private sector, and business is a key driver of social and economic development. Some are beginning to see the value of biodiversity, the need to protect it, and the need to invest in it. In the current global recession, with huge stimulus investments coming from governments, now, more than ever, we should be investing in nature to drive sustainable economic and social growth.
- Each year, we are losing ecosystem services worth an estimated EUR 50 billion from land-based ecosystems alone
- The world’s commercial fisheries are likely to collapse in less than 50 years unless current trends are reversed
- While 35% of the Earth’s surface is already dedicated to agriculture, irrigated crop production will need to increase by 80% by 2030 to match rising demand
- In the Caribbean, the direct result of coral reef destruction has resulted in a 20% decline in tourism revenues (equal to approximately US$ 300 million per year)
- Hundreds of medicinal plant species, whose naturally occurring chemicals make up the basis of all prescription drugs, are threatened with extinction.
- New ‘green markets’ for organic agriculture, certified food and timber products are growing three times faster than the average, and could reach US$60 billion by 2010
- Around the world, it is estimated that protected areas could produce benefits, goods and ecosystem services worth between US$4,400 and US$5,200 billion a year.
- The overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing up to 20% of global GDP each year, while the costs of action now can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year
The global economic crisis, which is still having far-reaching consequences, has put pressure on world leaders to rethink their economic policies. In many cases, public and private investments are not in line with broader objectives of sustainability. Consequently, they often result in an over-exploitation of natural resources that compromises the long-term viability of the enterprise. The decline of the world’s fish stocks is a clear example of how misaligned policies can undermine an entire industry and the economy it supports.
A closer alignment of our economic and environment systems is an imperative that society can no longer afford to ignore. Critical steps in the necessary transition to a greener economy include:
Achieve a fuller integration of biodiversity and ecosystem values into economic policy, finance and markets
Empower private sector companies to lead the way to the development of more sustainable business models and practices
- Strengthen the biodiversity business case through the generation of knowledge and awareness on the different forms and contributions of biodiversity and ecosystem values.
- Enhance the capacity of decision-makers to adequately account and manage for biodiversity and ecosystem values.
- Help governments identify opportunities for generating employment and business opportunities through more sustainable policy planning and implementation.
Make greater and smarter investments in nature-based markets and enterprises
- Develop best-practice guidance and standards for advancing sustainability in key industry sectors, such as agriculture, extractives, and tourism.
- Explore and test alternative approaches for enhancing corporate sustainability, such as through full life-cycle analysis and innovating offsetting schemes.
- Provide new channels for sustainable financing opportunities, such as through the development of a green development mechanism.
- Encourage the establishment and growth of innovative markets for public environmental goods and services, such as trading in carbon credits and banking of wetlands.
- Support the development of sustainable enterprises in areas such as renewable energy, organic agriculture and ecotourism.
- Encourage the enhanced appreciation of the climate regulating functions of ecosystems; such as through REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation).