We need nature in our lives. Healthy and resilient societies depend on giving nature the space it needs. The recent COVID-19 pandemic makes the need to protect and restore nature all the more urgent. This reflects the fact that the risk of emergence and spread of infectious diseases increases as nature is destroyed
Protecting and restoring biodiversity and well-functioning ecosystems is therefore key to boost our resilience and prevent the emergence and spread of future diseases. Investing in nature protection and restoration will also be critical for Europe’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. The European Green Deal – the EU’s growth strategy – will be the compass for our recovery, ensuring that the economy serves people and society and gives back to nature more than it takes away. The business case for biodiversity is compelling.
Over half of global GDP depends on nature and its services, with three key economic sectors – construction, agriculture, and food and drink – all highly dependent on it. Biodiversity conservation has potential direct economic benefits for many sectors of the economy. The overall benefit/cost ratio of an effective global programme for the conservation of remaining wild nature worldwide is estimated to be at least 100 to 1. Natural capital investment, including restoration of carbon-rich habitats and climate-friendly agriculture, is recognised to be among the five most important fiscal recovery policies, which offer high economic multipliers and positive climate impact.
Biodiversity loss threatens our food systems, putting our food security and nutrition at risk. Biodiversity also underpins healthy and nutritious diets and improves rural livelihoods and agricultural productivity. For instance, more than 75% of global food crop types rely on animal pollination. Despite this urgent moral, economic and environmental imperative, nature is in a state of crisis.
The five main direct drivers of biodiversity loss – changes in land and sea use, overexploitation, climate change, pollution, and invasive alien species – are making nature disappear quickly. In the last four decades, global wildlife populations fell by 60% due to human activities. And almost three-quarters of the Earth’s surface has been altered, squeezing nature into an ever-smaller corner of the planet. The biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis are intrinsically linked.
Climate change accelerates the destruction of the natural world through droughts, flooding and wildfires, while the loss and unsustainable use of nature are in turn key drivers of climate change. Nature is a vital ally in the fight against climate change. Nature regulates the climate, and nature-based solutions, such as protecting and restoring wetlands, peatlands and coastal ecosystems, or sustainably managing marine areas, forests, grasslands and agricultural soils, will be essential for emission reduction and climate adaptation. Specifically, biodiversity loss results in reduced crop yields and fish catches, increased economic losses from flooding and other disasters, and the loss of potential new sources of medicine.
The EU is ready to show ambition to reverse biodiversity loss, lead the world by example and by action, and help agree and adopt a transformative post-2020 global framework at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. This should build on the headline ambition to ensure that by 2050 all of the world’s ecosystems are restored, resilient, and adequately protected. The world should commit to the net-gain principle to give nature back more than it takes. As part of this, the world should commit to no human-induced extinction of species, at minimum where avoidable.
As a milestone, it aims to ensure that Europe’s biodiversity will be on the path to recovery by 2030 for the benefit of people, the planet, the climate and our economy, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and with the objectives of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It addresses the five primary drivers of biodiversity loss, sets out an enhanced governance framework to fill remaining gaps, ensures the full implementation of EU legislation, and pulls together all existing efforts. It reflects the fact that protecting and restoring nature will need more than regulation alone.