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Biodiversity is a cornerstone of development, and its loss threatens many hard-won development gains. Biodiversity blunts the impact of other crises, like climate change and conflict, on development; it is also the wealth of poor nations and poor communities within nations as a producer of jobs and GDP. For example, in the fisheries sector, 60 million jobs globally are tied directly to fishing and fish farming.  For every one of those jobs, 2.5 more are created in the fisheries value chain. That is 200 million jobs, 60 percent of which are in the developing world. The same can be said for industries such as forestry and nature-based tourism. 

The value of biodiversity goes beyond the variety of living organisms, and also includes the services provided by healthy ecosystems - such as wild pollination, provision of food from marine fisheries, and timber from native forests.  To capture this broader concept, we refer to nature, rather than biodiversity alone.  

And around the world, nature is vanishing at an unprecedented rate and scale. The poorest economies stand to lose the most in relative terms from nature loss, which puts at risk their prospects to grow out of poverty. World Bank modelling shows that in a scenario where just a few ecosystem services –– collapse, low-income countries could forego 10 percent in real GDP annually by 2030, compared with global losses of 2.3 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia could see annual drops of 9.7 and 6.5 percent, relative to a no tipping point scenario.

The most vulnerable communities may be most at risk too - 80 percent of the global population live below the poverty line lives in rural areas and tend to depend heavily on nature’s services. Without income from natural resources, poverty among smallholders in Latin America, South Asia, East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa would be higher. Healthy ecosystems prevent the descent of poor households into deeper poverty by providing food, water, and raw materials, and thus act as a barrier against natural and man-made disasters and as a safety net during economic crises. The unfolding global food crisis, which threatens to drive millions into extreme poverty, magnifying hunger and malnutrition, underlines nature’s vital role in food security.

Nature and climate are intertwined. Oceans, soils, forests, peatlands, and other ecosystems are the world’s largest carbon sinks, absorbing 60 percent of gross annual anthropogenic carbon emissions. A significant loss of these systems hinders our ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Conversely, climate change is one of the five direct drivers of nature loss, alongside land and sea use change, overexploitation, pollution, and invasive species.  The impacts of climate change shift and shrink the critical habitats that species rely on, alter ecosystem functioning, and interact with other drivers of nature loss to weaken the resilience of ecosystems to natural shocks and man-made pressures.

Neither crisis can be addressed independently of the other. Net zero goals under the Paris Agreement are not feasible without natural sequestration, which is why all Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pathway models that limit global warming to 1.5°C include actions to conserve and restore nature. In turn, falling short on the global climate ambition will adversely impact ecosystems, even under a 1.5°C to 2°C warming scenario, compromising efforts to address biodiversity loss.

Nature loss is the result of market, policy, and institutional failures that are keeping economies on unsustainable development paths.  For example, the volume of subsidies that are harmful to development is at least five to six times more the amount of funding devoted to protecting biodiversity. For this reason, conservation efforts alone are not sufficient to halt the global loss of nature.

Investing in nature creates opportunities for high-value and greener growth. Shifting markets and value chains toward models that conserve and restore natural capital, and use it sustainably, can create long-term growth and greener and higher quality jobs, if measures are put in place for an equitable and inclusive transition. Strategic investment in protected areas can create opportunities for income diversification which support local economies. Leveraging these opportunities and bringing nature into rural and urban development planning is essential for setting economies on a green, resilient, and inclusive development path.

Last Updated: Sep 18, 2023