Huge boost to business and jobs worldwide if nature is prioritised says World Economic Forum

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Stimulating growth in ways that puts nature first could provide an £8tn boost and create hundreds of millions of jobs worldwide, experts have said.

A “future of nature and business” report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights how governments and businesses can build back better from the economic fallout of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and tackle the nature and climate crisis.

Industry moves ranging from recycling clothing to installing energy-saving light bulbs and green roofs into buildings, and even diversifying diets, could help create 395 million jobs around the world by 2030, the WEF said

The report outlines a series of these “nature-positive” solutions that provide 10.1 trillion US dollars (£8tn) worth of business opportunities.

It comes in the wake of warnings that nature is declining at unprecedented rates, with almost a million species at risk of extinction due to human activity such as farming, pollution and deforestation.

At the same time, damage to natural systems from forests to clean water supplies poses a huge risk to human health, livelihoods and well being.

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A solar panel is installed on the roof of Salisbury Cathedral’s south cloister, (Andrew Matthews/PA)
A solar panel is installed on the roof of Salisbury Cathedral’s south cloister, (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The report warns that Covid-19, a disease which has jumped from animals to humans, is a “stark reminder” of how ignoring the risks from biological systems can have catastrophic impacts on health and the economy.

There is no future for business as usual, the report warns, with irreversible tipping points for natural systems and the climate looming, and more than half of global economic output threatened by nature losses.

Moves to make food production and the use of land and oceans more “nature-positive” could create 3.6 trillion US dollars (£2.9tn) extra revenue or savings and 191 million new jobs, the report said.

Switching diets from just 12 plant and five animal species which make up 75% of what the world eats to more diversified vegetables and fruits, using precision technology on farms to improve productivity, and managing fish stocks more sustainably will all deliver benefits.

Reusing, recycling and refurbishing clothing would also deliver billions of pounds in savings and, by 2030, prevent 148 million tonnes of wasted textiles, which are currently landfilled or burned at the rate of one rubbish truck-full per second.

Improving infrastructure and buildings would create 117 million jobs and three trillion dollars (£2.4tn), for example through installing LEDs and other efficient technology, using smart sensors to curb water leaks, managing waste better and putting green roofs on buildings.

Fishing boats at North Shields Fish Quay (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Fishing boats at North Shields Fish Quay (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The report also details a potential 3.5 trillion US dollars (£2.8tn) boost and 87 million new jobs by 2030 in the energy and mining sectors.

Opportunities include refurbishing and reusing vehicle parts, investing in renewables and developing new technologies such as high rise solar power stations.

Akanksha Kharti, head of nature action agenda at the WEF, said: “We can address the looming bio-diversity crisis and reset the economy in a way that creates and protects millions of jobs.

“Public calls are getting louder for businesses and government to do better.

“We can protect our food supplies, make better use of our infrastructure and tap into new energy sources by transitioning to nature-positive solutions.”

And she urged businesses to lead the way.

“The speed of change required, government budget constraints in the wake of Covid-19, and current failures in international cooperation, mean business is best placed to drive the nature-positive transitions the world needs,” she said.

The WEF has also outlined policy measures for finance ministers to use as part of stimulus packages and creating jobs without destroying nature.

They include better measurement of economic performance beyond GDP, incentives for innovation, improved planning and management of land and sea assets, the removal of subsidies that endanger long-term job stability, investment in retraining, and more money for schemes that support nature.

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