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Protect the economy by protecting nature, study urges

© Shawn Heinrichs

Protecting 30 percent of the world’s land and sea outweigh the costs by a ratio of 5 to 1, according to a new report

Co-authored by more than 100 economists and scientists, including Conservation International leadership council member and renowned ecologist Thomas Lovejoy, the report explored the impacts of protected areas and national parks across a variety of sectors, including agriculture, fisheries and nature conservation. 

Completing the most comprehensive economic analysis of its kind, the authors discovered that protecting around one-third of land and sea could provide an economic output of between US$ 64 billion and US$ 454 billion a year by 2030. Additionally, they found that protecting forests and mangroves could prevent economic losses from climate change by up to US$ 534 billion annually by 2050. 

“There is a large financial return if we protect 30 percent of terrestrial and marine nature,” Lovejoy said. “Protecting the goose does indeed produce golden eggs.”

The authors determined that increasing nature protection could also help slow climate change, reduce pollution and decrease water insecurity in rural areas. 

Yet just 15 percent of the world’s land and 7 percent of the sea is currently protected — and these areas have shrunk since the COVID-19 pandemic began: According to recent research, protected areas have been weakened on nearly every continent in recent months to allow for  development or mining. 

To obtain the highest possible economic benefits from nature, countries must invest at least US$ 140 billion per year by 2030 in strengthening and expanding protected areas, which currently only receive US$ 24 billion annually in funding, the report states.

“This new report provides exactly the type of data that we and other countries need. It gives us a concrete idea of how much it would cost to protect at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and ocean and, more importantly, it tells us that the benefits of this protection far outweigh the costs,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, the Costa Rican Environment and Energy Minister and incoming CEO of the Global Environment Facility. “Now that we know what is needed, all countries must increase their financial commitments and work with businesses and philanthropies to increase investment in the protection of nature.”

Read the full report here


Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: Mt. Panie in New Caledonia (© Shawn Heinrichs)

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