Image: The Urgency of Biodiversity Action
Delaying action on biodiversity by just 10 years will be twice as expensive as acting immediately and make it infeasible to stabilize biodiversity intactness at even today’s degraded levels, according to the report The Urgency of Biodiversity Action, by de Vivid Economics and the Natural History Museum.
The document calculates that a delay 10 years would more than double the social cost of intervention, from around 8% to 17% of current global GDP – a difference of equivalent to almost 40% of the GDP of the US in 2019. This stems from much higher incentives required for reforestation and higher food costs if action is delayed.
Biodiversity is declining rapidly due to human activities; on this, there is a strong scientific consensus. However, the costs of delaying action to arrest and reverse biodiversity loss have not been examined until now. Urgent action is needed to stem terrestrial biodiversity loss before it becomes much more costly and much less feasible to address, authors highlight.
The analysis estimates relative cost, biodiversity intactness and species extinctions between ‘immediate’ and ‘delayed-action’ scenarios, each of which reaches a similar biodiversity outcome by 2050. In the immediate- action scenario, the global community acts now to stabilise biodiversity intactness at current levels by 2050. Decisive action begins in 2020 and prevents over 20% of the extinctions of endemic species that might have happened in a baseline scenario of currently implemented policies on climate change, biodiversity and area protection. In the delayed-action scenario, stronger actions to conserve biodiversity commence in 2030, with more abrupt and disruptive action thereafter to restore biodiversity intactness to current levels by 2050 (see Figure 1 a).1 In addition, a third scenario, ‘immediate high-ambition’, delivers an increase in biodiversity intactness from today’s levels by 2050.
The scope of this work is constrained to restoration through reforestation of naturally forested areas to generate positive outcomes for biodiversity as a result of global action. Actions targeting aquatic, coastal, marine and other terrestrial biodiversity lie beyond the scope of this work. However, biodiversity outcomes are estimated for all terrestrial biodiversity, and so the results serve as an indication of the scale of potential costs of inaction in other ecosystems.
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