Nature loss to wipe trillions off global economy – WWF

13th February 2020

Web drought istock 157313406

Related Topics

Related tags

  • sea ice loss ,
  • Biodiversity ,
  • Natural Capital ,
  • Global



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


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

How much is too much?

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Ben Goodwin reflects on policy, practice and advocacy over the past year

2nd April 2024

Read more

In 2020, IEMA and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) jointly wrote and published A User Guide to Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. This has now been updated to include three key developments in the field.

2nd April 2024

Read more

Hello and welcome to another edition of Transform. I hope that you’ve had a good and productive few months so far.

28th March 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close