Economic benefits of investing in nature restoration
Ecosystem restoration is not just about planting trees across the globe. It is a deep transformation of our global economy. Nature restoration is a significant part of the New Climate economy the world needs to adopt. A growing body of evidence shows that nature provides significant socio-economic benefits including sustainable jobs and ecotourism opportunities. Protecting and restoring nature and well-functioning ecosystems is also a fundamental tool in tackling the twin crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change.
Today, we are losing nature at an unprecedented rate. To bend the curve of nature loss, protecting remaining natural places will not be sufficient – we need to invest in large-scale restoration as well.
Ecosystem services delivered by biodiversity – from crop pollination and water purification to flood protection and carbon sequestration – are vital to human wellbeing. Globally, these services are worth an estimated USD 125-140 trillion (EUR 102-115 trillion) per year – more than one and a half times the size of the global economy.
But we are losing nature faster than it can restore itself, and the costs of inaction on biodiversity loss are soaring. Between 1997 and 2011, the world lost an estimated USD 4-20 trillion (EUR 3.3-16.5 trillion) each year in ecosystem services due to land-cover change, including conversion of natural forests into cropland, and USD 6-11 trillion (EUR 5-9 trillion) a year from land degradation, like soil erosion and desertification. Today, more than half of the world’s total GDP is at risk due to nature loss.
In Europe, the economic benefits of the Natura 2000 network are valued at EUR 200-300 billion a year and around 4.4 million jobs are directly dependent on the maintenance of healthy ecosystems, a significant proportion of which is situated within the Natura 2000 sites. Closing the funding gap that’s needed for the effective management of the network could generate 500,000 additional jobs.
All in all, investing in large-scale nature restoration makes socio-economic sense, and the benefits of restoration are on average ten times higher than the costs.
Nature restoration leads to job creation and economic growth in regions where the environment has been degraded or even completely destroyed. In post-industrial regions and landscapes, for example, nature restoration has helped boost the local economy through employment and tourism opportunities, restoring the social fabric of the region and providing locals with a healthier environment to live in.
The tourism sector – the third largest industry in the EU – is crucial for many European countries and regions. The lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have heightened our appreciation for green spaces, but if carried out irresponsibly, tourism can cause severe environmental damage. Luckily, there are ways of combining responsible and sustainable tourism with measures to restore the natural environment – and do so with huge socio-economic benefits.
Reference : WWF