Biodiversity Is A Sound Investment
Biodiversity – the amount of plant and animal species that populate a region – is under threat. Numerous species are facing extinction or habitat loss, much of which is due to human activity, and this devastation of the natural world in turn has negative effects on humans.
One reason biodiversity is important is its crucial role in providing food security. For example, a study of children in Madagascar found that those without access to bushmeat – wild game – were three times more likely to have a nutrient deficiency than those with access. A country facing widespread malnutrition will not be as productive as one that is well-fed. Around 30 million people worldwide are totally dependent on coastal and marine resources to meet their dietary needs. Globally, fisheries produce sixteen percent of all protein consumed, and employ over 200 million people. Without healthy and diverse ecosystems, these communities and industries will collapse. Agriculture is also dependent on biodiversity. Over 100,000 different species – primarily insects – are responsible for pollination for over two-thirds of our global crop yield. In economic terms, pollinators are worth over $200 billion, worldwide.
To address these issues and more, The UN composed the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, which set twenty major targets. These are also known as the Aichi Targets, named after the Japanese Prefecture. This essay could best be described as an economic cost-benefit analysis of meeting the Aichi Targets. In short, the benefits generally outweigh the costs: developing a global network of nature reserves will cost around $40 billion, while the services protected by such reserves are worth between $4.4 trillion and $5.2 trillion. In addition, the loss of biodiversity will have a negative financial impact of around $140 billion. By 2050, this figure grows to $14 trillion, equivalent to 7% of the world’s GDP at the time. Per capita, global investment required to meet the Aichi Targets is estimated to be only $20 to $60, which is at most .007% of global GDP.
Water security and climate change are both issues that can also be addressed by preserving biodiversity. The report cites evidence that ‘natural infrastructure’ is incredibly valuable for ensuring access to clean water. Most notably, it states that around 80% of Quito, Ecuador’s 1.5 million people were reliant on water from two protected ecological areas, and that almost half of Tegucegalpa, Honduras’ (pop. 850,000) water came from La Tiga National Park.
With regards to climate change, the evidence shows that forests act as carbon sinks, and that halving our deforestation rate would reduce damages of greenhouse gasses worth around $3.7 trillion by 2030. Marine and coastal ecosystems can also fulfill this role – the carbon sequestration provided by the ocean is estimated to have a value of between $74 and $222 billion per year.
Finally, the authors list ten insights that they gained from reviewing the costs and benefits of meeting the Aichi protocol.
- “Meeting the Aichi Targets will deliver substantial benefits to people and to economies across the world”: Sustainability and conservation do not have to come at the cost of industry or human development.
- “Biodiversity is essential to sustainable development”: Sustainable economies rely on natural infrastructure, and will generate more growth in the long term than unsustainable industries.
- “Biodiversity contributes to climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience”: Fighting climate change is not a human-only endeavor; the natural world can contribute, too.
- “Investments in biodiversity can strengthen the provision of ecosystem services on which vulnerable communities depend”: The majority of the world’s impoverished population – around 870 million – is directly dependent on healthy ecosystems to meet their basic needs.
- “Biodiversity provides insurance and option values”: Investments made now will reduce future costs related to the loss of biodiversity.
- “Enhancing synergies, addressing trade-offs and promoting alignments across sectoral policies, are prerequisites for effective implementation of the Aichi Targets and of major importance for resource mobilization.”: Objectives must be in harmony across sectors, and must be mutually supportive.
- “All countries need to invest in institutions and policy frame- works, direct conservation and sustainable use actions, incentives and economic instruments: cohesive, well-designed institutions and effective policy frameworks are a prerequisite for effective and efficient biodiversity financing.”: Grassroots investment plans are mostly consistent with institutional investment plans to meet the Aichi Targets. Local and indigenous populations can provide knowledge to policymakers, and their rights must be respected.
- “Design and implementation of appropriate economic and policy instruments is essential to halt the loss of biodiversity”: Meeting the Aichi Targets will require more efficient government budgets, and every dollar must be stretched to its limit.
- “The monetary and non-monetary benefits of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use frequently outweigh the cost”: In the majority of cases, it is worth it to meet the Aichi Targets.
- “There is a need to increase investments substantially to bridge financing gaps”: Currently, the funds available are not enough to meet the Aichi Targets. Global investment for biodiversity is currently around $53 billion, but meeting the targets will require at least $300 billion.
On the whole, the article is an argument that, despite the protests of some political and business leaders, environmental protection is an economic benefit. The global economy is dependent on a healthy global ecosystem, but we are not adequately protecting this foundation. Part of the reason for this lack of protection is the framing of environmentalism as opposed to industrialism: while environmentalism is incompatible with some industries, the global economy is incredibly diverse. The jobs and wealth that are protected and created by the environmental movement far outweigh those that would be lost. For animal advocates, the study shows some possible indications of how animal and plant species could be valued in an economic setting; though the ten insights of the Aichi protocol are rather theoretical, they show the importance of fighting climate change in a harmonized way with the world around us.