Nature loss to wipe trillions off global economy – WWF

13th February 2020


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Droughts, coastal erosion and other climate-related impacts will cost the world trillions of pounds in nature loss over the next three decades unless more is done to tackle the environmental crisis.

That is according to a new WWF study, which estimates that a decline in natural assets will cost the world at least £368bn a year, adding up to almost £8trn by 2050.

This is roughly equivalent to the combined economies of the UK, France, India and Brazil, with damage to coastal protections the most costly impact forecast.

The study involved innovative economic and environmental modelling, with the estimated costs said to be conservative as they don't consider risk multiplying 'tipping points'.

We need urgent, global leadership and immediate action to change the way we use land, to invest in the restoration of nature, to cut emissions and critically to stop destroying forests for food production, said WWF executive director of advocacy, Katie White.

The UK is forecast to suffer some of the biggest losses, taking an economic hit of £16bn by 2050, which is the current combined annual funding of the police, fire service, prisons and law courts.

Only the US and Japan are predicted to suffer higher financial costs, although the researchers warned that poorer countries will bear disproportionate losses.

In Eastern and Western Africa, central Asia and parts of South America, nature loss, including water shortages and a decline in pollinators, will affect production levels and trade.

The study predicts global price rises for key commodities such as timber, cotton, oil seeds, and fruit and vegetables, with the agricultural sector taking the hardest hit by loss of nature.

Countries with extensive coastlines such as the US, Australia and Japan will see large losses caused by damage to coastal infrastructure and farm land as a result of loss of natural defences including coral reefs and mangroves.

However, if land and sea use is managed carefully to avoid further nature loss, the researchers estimate annual global GDP to actually increase by £9bn a year.

Inaction will result in slower economic growth, disruption of coastal communities and higher food prices, said professors Thomas Hertel, founder of the Global Trade Analysis Project.

To ensure positive global futures, we need to achieve more sustainable patterns of production and land use, and reform economic and financial systems to incentivise nature-based decision making.“

Image credit: ©iStock

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