Loss of biodiversity could damage world economy, says UN

Posted by Emma Woollacott

It's always worth appealing to peoples' pockets if appealing to their better nature doesn't work, and a new UN report warns that the world's loss of biodiversity is threatening national economies.

The Global Biodiversity Outlook report points out that governments have failed to achieve biodiversity targets set in 2002, and that nearly a quarter of plant species are threatened with extinction.

"The consequences of this collective failure, if it is not quickly corrected, will be severe for us all," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

"To tackle the root causes of biodiversity loss, we must give it higher priority in all areas of decision making and in all economic sectors."

The report says that the world is rapidly approaching several tipping points, including rapid forest dieback in the Amazon and the loss of coral reefs worldwide. Many freshwater lakes are being effectively lost to algal buildup, it says.

And it warns that there is a financial cost, for example in purifying water and air, maintaining fish stocks and protecting coastlines from storms.

"Many countries are beginning to factor natural capital into some areas of economic and social life with important returns, but this needs rapid and sustained scaling-up," says UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme Achim Steiner.

"Humanity has fabricated the illusion that somehow we can get by without biodiversity or that it is somehow peripheral to our contemporary world: the truth is we need it more than ever on a planet of six billion heading to over nine billion people by 2050."

The report calls for a ramping-up of efforts to reduce biodiversity, including preventing nutrient pollution, cutting off the pathways for introduction alien invasive species, and introducing more sustainable practices in fisheries, forestry and agriculture.