Investing in protecting 30% of world's lands and oceans could reap great economic benefits in future: Report

The benefits of conserving 30% of world's lands and oceans outweigh the costs at least 5-to-1, say experts


                            Investing in protecting 30% of world's lands and oceans could reap great economic benefits in future: Report
(Getty Images)

The path to global prosperity is in conserving nature. According to a new report, the economy could benefit from leaving 30% of the world's lands and oceans undisturbed and placing them under protection. Species facing a risk of extinction might also recover.

The report comes amid rising concerns over the sixth mass extinction event, which has dramatically picked up pace now. An analysis found that it is threatening to wipe out over 500 species in the next 20 years. If this goes unchecked, it could challenge human existence. Data also suggests that by degrading nature, we could lose up to one million species. Further, protecting lands and oceans could stop another pandemic.

The report suggests that such investing in saving the environment could fetch more monetary returns and the benefits outweigh the costs at least 5-to-1. Commenting on the findings of the report, Dr Thomas E Lovejoy, from George Mason University and a co-author of the report, said: "A stunning result: There is a large financial return if we protect 30% of terrestrial and marine nature. Protecting the goose does indeed produce golden eggs.”

According to Anthony Waldron, the lead author of the report, sectors such as agriculture and forestry might reap benefits. It might also help mitigate climate change and water crises, biodiversity loss, and disease outbreaks. "Increasing nature protection is a sound policy for governments juggling multiple interests. You cannot put a price tag on nature — but the economic numbers point to its protection,” he added.

A growing human population and the influx of tourism on the Galapagos islands have created challenges in conserving the UNESCO World Heritage site and its endemic wildlife. (Getty Images)

Currently, the world shells $24 billion a year to protect about 15% of the world’s land and 7% of the oceans. Extending the cover to about 30% will need an average annual investment of roughly $140 billion by 2030. But, in the long run, the economy will receive an additional boost of $64 billion-$454 billion per year by 2050, depending on how these measures are implemented. 

“This investment pales in comparison to the economic benefits that additional protected areas would deliver and to the far larger financial support currently given to other sectors,” Dr Enric Sala, co-author of this report, explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, said. “Investing to protect nature would represent less than one-third of the amount that governments spend on subsidies to activities that destroy nature. It would represent 0.16% of global GDP and require less investment than the world spends on video games every year.” 

Besides averting pandemics like the Covid-19 in the future, conserving nature also comes with a host of benefits. For instance, they improve mental and physical health. According to a recent study, protected areas based on the improved mental health of visitors has an estimated value of $6 trillion a year. 

Co-author of the report, Dr James Watson from the University of Queensland, said: "We know that logging of intact areas has contributed to Australia's record-setting wildfires, and the destruction of natural areas increases the risk of pandemics like Covid-19. This report delivers another reason to protect nature: it makes sense financially. I hope that world leaders will take note of these findings and redouble their efforts to establish and invest in more protected areas on land and at sea."

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