The UK risks seeing $30bn a year wiped off the value of the economy if the world fails to respond to the decline in nature.
A new Global Futures study by WWF modelled the economic cost of the loss of global biodiversity across 140 countries by 2050 if the world carries on with “business as usual”. It calculated that $10tn is set to be lost from the global economy over the next 30 years impacting both developed and developing countries.
The US would see the largest losses of annual GDP in absolute terms, with $83bn wiped off its economy each year by 2050. The UK stands to lose $21bn each year largely due to expected damage to its coastal infrastructure and agricultural land through increased flooding and erosion.
Developing countries will also be badly affected, with Eastern and Western Africa, central Asia and parts of South America hit particularly hard, as nature loss impacts on production levels, trade and food prices.
The main costs will be from flood protection damage and loss of carbon storage which protects against climate change. Costs will also be incurred due to lost habitats for bees and other pollinating insects and reduced water availability for agriculture. The price of key commodities such as timber, cotton, oil seeds and fruit and vegetables will also rise.
The study predicted that under a scenario in which land use is carefully managed to avoid further loss of areas important for biodiversity and ecosystem services economic outcomes would be dramatically better, with global GDP rising by $490bn per year above the business as usual calculation.
“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.”