Nature’s ability to provide services like clean water and food security is in jeopardy, threatening the very existence of human life. Nearly one million animal and plant species (out of an estimated eight million total) are threatened with extinction, and 14 of the 18 assessed categories of ecosystem services have declined since 1970 (IPBES 2019). As with climate change, severe degradation of nature threatens communities, value chains, and economies, and low-income countries stand to lose the most, as the recent Economic Case for Nature report estimates.
A new World Bank Group approach paper, Unlocking Nature-Smart Development, builds evidence that nature loss is capable of erasing recent gains in development and stripping some of the poorest countries of the foundations for future growth. The silver lining is that investing in nature can also be a development opportunity. For example, a recent World Bank study on protected areas in four countries demonstrated that investment in conservation generates positive economic returns, creates income multipliers, and provides practical green recovery options in times of COVID-19. Shifting sectors and value chains toward nature-smart practices can also create inclusive, long-term value and greener and higher quality jobs.
Transformative global action is needed to address a challenge this magnitude and make the most of the opportunities. The new paper outlines the building blocks of an effective global response, as well as six specific response areas intended to guide governments and inform broader discussions on how to integrate nature into development planning and implementation (see Figure 1).
Analysis shows that a few economic sectors are at the core of unlocking a nature-smart agenda. In other words, solutions to the crisis lie in the economic sectors that put the greatest pressure on biodiversity and ecosystem services: land and ocean use, infrastructure, and energy and extractives (WEF 2020b). For this reason, World Bank Group’s work on biodiversity goes beyond conserving and protecting nature. Biodiversity is integrated into the broader portfolio of the World Bank in sectors like agriculture, forestry, watershed management, fisheries, and coastal zone management (see Figure 2).