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WEF says 395 million new jobs by 2030 if businesses prioritize nature – and water is a key issue

The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented job losses and economic uncertainty. As governments and businesses look to stimulate growth, a new study from the World Economic Forum found that ‘nature-positive’ solutions can create 395 million jobs by 2030.

The Future of Nature and Business Report provides blueprints for businesses to tap into a $10.1 trillion business opportunity, focusing on industry actions that are nature-positive, meaning that they add value to nature.

A variety of water resource challenges and solutions are flagged up in the wide-ranging report, including:

Water leakage and smart sensors: Reducing municipal water leakage could save $115 billion by 2030. Return on investments in water efficiency can be above 20%.

Mining and resource extraction: Improving resource recovery in extraction can save $225 billion and reduce water usage by 75% in the next decade

Planet-compatible urban utilities – aim to effectively manage air, water and solid waste pollution in urban areas. Scaling such utilities will go hand in hand with guaranteeing universal access to modern water and sanitation services, modern waste disposal and recycling services, and modern energy and electricity.

Nature as infrastructure – complementing human-engineered solutions with restoring and protecting nature as infrastructure can be used, for example, to build resilience to extreme weather events or provide essential services such as water supply and drainage. Involves incorporating existing or restored natural ecosystems – such as floodplains, wetlands and forests – into built-up area planning to provide benefits such as protection from extreme weather events, flood control and water filtration.

Wastewater  – over 80% of the world’s is discharged, untreated, into biodiversity-rich freshwater, which is then used to irrigate cropland, and into coastal ecosystems.

Water security – a major issue worldwide. Surface and groundwater are repeatedly polluted by agricultural and industrial effluents, while land-use changes linked to agriculture, mining and urbanization have degraded nearly half of the world’s urban source watersheds. Together, these issues are costing cities billions of dollars to fill in the gap left by the destruction of free natural ecosystem services with costly water filtration plants

“We must “spare” large areas of land and water so that natural ecosystems are left intact”

The report says:

“Drastically reversing the impact of the food, land and ocean system on nature means taking two main actions.

“We must increase the amount of land and water that is left undisturbed to allow the diversity of life to thrive – that is, we must “spare” large areas of land and water so that natural ecosystems are left intact.

“At the same time, we must ensure that working land and water is much more hospitable to life – that is, we must greatly improve the way we “share” space with nature.”

The report is built on real world examples where business outcomes have been improved by nature-positive outcomes. Smart farming utilizing sensors and satellite imagery in Indonesia improved crop yields on average by 60%. Suzhou Industrial Park’s green development in China has seen its GDP increase 260-fold partially through green development. In Viet Nam, people living in coastal communities saw their incomes more than double following the restoration of critical mangroves.

Akanksha Khatri, Head of the Nature Action Agenda, World Economic Forum commented:

“We can address the looming bio-diversity crisis and reset the economy in a way that creates and protects millions of jobs.”

“Public calls are getting louder for businesses and government to do better. We can protect our food supplies, make better use of our infrastructure and tap into new energy sources by transitioning to nature-positive solutions.”

The report, written in collaboration with AlphaBeta, segments actions in a number of areas:

Food, land and ocean use: What we eat and grow makes up around $10 trillion of global GDP and employs up to 40% of the global workforce. Nature-positive solutions can create 191 million new jobs and $3.6 trillion of additional revenue or cost savings by 2030.

Diversifying diet: Some 75% of the world’s food comes from 12 plant and five animal species. Animal products provide 18% of calories but take up 80% of farmland. A more diversified diet of vegetables and fruits can create $310 billion in business opportunities annually by 2030.

Technology in large-scale farms: Over 4.3 million jobs and $195 billion in business opportunities can come from precision-agriculture technologies by 2030. With 40% improvements in yields expected, investments could yield returns of over 10%.

Retail: The equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned every second, meaning $500 billion is lost every year as a result of discarded clothing. Using more renewable inputs and reusing, refurbishing and recycling clothes could lead to $130 billion in savings and prevent 148 million tonnes of textile waste by 2030.

Fishing: It takes five times the effort to catch the same amount of fish now as it did in 1950. If the ‘business as usual’ approach continues, wild fish stocks will decline by 15%. This will cost the industry $83 billion, as boats will have to travel further and fish deeper. Sustainable ecosystem management is one way to tap into a $40 billion opportunity for the maritime industry worldwide.

Infrastructure and the built-environment: About 40% of global GDP comes from the environment we build – office buildings, homes and transport. Nature-positive solutions can create 117 million new jobs and $3 trillion in additional revenue or cost savings by 2030.

A policy companion outlines how governments can complement and enable businesses to act. Finance ministers can combine six cross-cutting policy measures to put the right incentives in place as part of stimulus packages and create jobs without destroying nature.

They include better measurement of economic performance beyond GDP, incentives for innovation, improved spatial planning and management of marine and terrestrial assets, the removal of subsidies that endanger long-term job stability, investment in reskilling, and increased financial support for natural solutions.

“As we enter into a historic decade of action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and address climate change, business has a critical role to play in environmental stewardship of our planet,” said Inger Andersen, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme. “They have the technology, innovation and financing to make the shifts we need towards increased investment in nature’s infrastructure and nature-based solutions.”

Click here to download the report The Future of Nature and Business 2020 in full




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