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Nature’s High Returns

As world leaders chart a course to reignite global growth, they must not ignore the relationship between nature and the economy. In the years ahead, preserving biodiversity and ecosystems will be the key to unlocking new opportunities, particularly in developing countries.

MONTREAL – The mega-challenges engulfing the world today – from COVID-19 to climate change – have highlighted the interdependencies between people, planet, and the economy. As we chart a course to reignite global growth and drive green, resilient, and inclusive development, we must not ignore these interlinkages. Nature – meaning biodiversity and the services that healthy ecosystems provide – is central to this endeavor, especially in developing countries, where poor people in rural areas tend to rely heavily on nature’s services and are the most vulnerable to its depletion.

As the international community gathers in Montreal for COP15, the United Nations summit on biodiversity, we must reaffirm the necessity of investing in nature, in tandem with climate action. After all, half of world GDP is generated by sectors – from agriculture and lumber to fisheries – that are moderately or highly dependent on ecosystems, and two-thirds of food crops rely at least partly on animal pollination.

But these vital natural assets are increasingly compromised. Nearly one million species of plants and animals are on the brink of extinction, and 60-70% of the world’s ecosystems are being degraded faster than they can recover. According to World Bank estimates, low-income countries could lose around 10% of their GDP annually by 2030, even if ecosystem collapse is confined to just a few services, such as wild pollination, food from marine fisheries, and timber from native forests.