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The Next Economy
WWF Reveals Biggest Losers in Unchecked Nature and Climate Crisis

New report projects a US$10T hit to the global economy by 2050, as well as the countries set to be worst affected by continued biodiversity loss.

A new report reveals for the first time the countries whose economies would be worst affected over the next 30 years if the world doesn’t act urgently to address the global environmental crisis.

The Global Futures report — a partnership between WWF, the Global Trade Analysis Project at Purdue University, and the University of Minnesota’s Natural Capital Project — includes first-of-its-kind analysis that calculated the economic cost of nature’s decline across 140 countries. The findings show that if the world carries on with “business as usual,” the US would see the largest losses of annual GDP in absolute terms, with US$83 billion wiped off its economy each year by 2050 — an amount equivalent to the entire annual GDP of Guatemala.

Japan and the UK are also poised to lose staggering amounts — $80 billion and $21 billion per year, respectively. In all three cases, this is due largely to expected damage to their coastal infrastructure and agricultural land through increased flooding and erosion, as a result of losses of natural coastal defenses such as coral reefs and mangroves.

“This ground-breaking study shows how conserving nature is not only a moral issue but a social and economic one,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “Not only will losing nature have a huge impact on human life and livelihoods, it will be catastrophic for our future prosperity. People across the world are already feeling the impact of rising food prices, droughts, commodity shortages, extreme flooding and coastal erosion. Yet, for the next generation, things will be many times worse — with trillions wiped off world economies by 2050.”

Global Futures is the latest addition to a growing wave of research, actions and collaborations from the business community and beyond, aiming to halt and reverse global biodiversity loss in an effort to safeguard our collective futures. In April 2019, a group of conservation scientists, NGOs and indigenous leaders urged governments to adopt a “Global Deal for Nature,” to tackle the interlinked crises of biodiversity loss and climate change; a few weeks later, the “Glowing, Glowing, Gone” campaign highlighting the global danger signaled by fluorescing coral reefs; and the following month, a new coalition called Business for Nature pledged to convene a united business voice at international negotiations to clearly demonstrate that the protection of nature is an economic as well as a moral imperative; and to call on governments to adopt an ambitious new deal for nature and people, to protect and enhance the natural world, supported by specific sets of actions.

Now, Global Futures has used new economic and environmental modelling to issue a clarion call regarding the catastrophic macroeconomic impact of continuing to pursue “business as usual” — which includes widespread and untargeted land-use change, continued increase in emissions of greenhouse gases, and further loss of natural habitats. It found this approach would cost the world at least $479 billion a year, adding up to $9.87 trillion by 2050 — roughly equivalent to the combined economies of the UK, France, India and Brazil.
But the study also examined two alternative scenarios:

  • The first, called “sustainable pathway,” represented a moderate change in course in favor of more sustainable land and resource use — this approach, while better than business as usual, still resulted in a loss of US**$2.65 trillion**;

  • In the second, “global conservation” — in which the world adopts a more sustainable development pathway and safeguards areas that are important for biodiversity and ecosystem services — annual global GDP would be 0.02 percent higher (US$11 billion) by 2050, with global GDP rising by $490 billion per year above the business-as-usual calculation.

Read more projections from Global Futures and download the report here.