The sustainable management of the environment and natural resources is vital for economic growth and human wellbeing. When managed well, renewable natural resources, watersheds, productive landscapes and seascapes can provide the foundation for sustained inclusive growth, food security and poverty reduction. Natural resources provide livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people and generate sizeable tax revenue. The world’s ecosystems regulate the air, water and soil on which we all depend, and form a unique and cost-effective buffer against extreme weather events and climate change.
Healthy ecosystems are essential for the long-term growth of economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism. They provide hundreds of millions of jobs. One third of the world’s 100 largest cities draw their water supply from protected areas. Three quarters of the world’s top 115 food crops depend on animal pollination. In developing countries, forests, lakes, rivers and oceans provide a significant share of households’ diets, fuel and incomes and represent a precious safety net in times of crisis, particularly for the poor who live in rural areas.
The integrity and functionality of these vital natural assets, however, are increasingly compromised, with 60 to 70% of the world’s ecosystems degrading faster than they can recover. Mismanagement of the environment and natural resources results in significant economic losses: for instance, an estimated $80 billion are squandered each year due to ocean fisheries mismanagement. Air pollution is now the fourth leading risk factor for premature death, contributing to 1 in 10 of all deaths worldwide and resulting in significant losses of welfare and income. Nature is under threat and one million animal and plant species, out of a total estimate of 8 million, risk extinction, many within decades, according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
The coronavirus pandemic underscores the links between human health and nature, with research showing that deforestation and land use change, habitat fragmentation, encroachment, rapid population growth and urbanization multiply the chances of contagion from diseases such as COVID-19 and other pathogens.
While nature can act as a buffer between humans and pathogens, it can also help in economic and social recovery efforts. In the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, governments and the development community will need to rapidly deploy stimulus packages at scale to spur economic recovery. There is an opportunity to design these packages in a way that integrates longer-term sustainability considerations, including solutions that boost the economy and simultaneously deliver positive environmental outcomes. Some examples include reduction of carbon emissions, conservation of biodiversity, and protection of ecosystem services that underpin a country’s prosperity and resilience to shocks like pandemics
Last Updated: Apr 16,2020