Why a pro-nature economic system would benefit us all



By Magdalene Trapp, Biodiversity Policy Manager, NABU (BirdLife in Germany)

Transformational change is needed in the systems that underpin our economies so that they benefit nature. In September 2020, NABU (BirdLife in Germany) and Boston Consulting Group released the report The biodiversity imperative for companies – Preserving the foundations of our well-being, which highlights that biodiversity provides more than US $ 170 trillion in annual benefits in addition to its inherent value, and provides industry recommendations for companies to integrate biodiversity into their economic decisions and processes. Here are the main conclusions:

Biodiversity is the basis of human well-being and of our economic activities

Many of nature’s vital services, such as crop pollination, pest control, drug delivery, greenhouse gas sequestration, flood protection and air pollution control, depend directly on the operation and the diversity of ecosystems. A key finding of the study is that biodiversity provides a value of at least 170-190 trillion US dollars per year – at least twice as much as the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). Sixty-five percent of this value is derived from regulatory functions of ecosystems, such as CO2 regulation, waste recycling and erosion prevention. However, this represents a lower limit as only a small part of biodiversity can be expressed in monetary terms. Values ​​such as well-being or joy are difficult to quantify because they are perceived individually and can vary between cultures. On top of that, the intrinsic value of biodiversity – its own value beyond that which it provides to people – can hardly be assessed.

Economic activities fuel the decline in global biodiversity. At the same time, they crucially depend on biodiversity and ecosystem services

Agriculture, forestry and fishing, expansion of infrastructure, extraction of raw materials and industrial production are the main contributors to the alarming loss of global biodiversity. They contribute to it through land use change, direct overexploitation of organisms, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and the spread of invasive species. The modes of production and consumption are fueling this development. Estimates show that in monetary terms we lose 6 to 30 trillion US dollars per year due to biodiversity loss. At the same time, the added value of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors – which currently stands at US $ 3.5 trillion – depends to a large extent on ecosystem services and biodiversity. When we lose these services of nature, the economy also loses.


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