Cities contribute nearly 80 per cent to the global economy but they also account for nearly three-fourths of greenhouse gas emissions and nearly half of the GDP in cities around the world or USD 31 trillion is at risk of disruption from nature loss, a new study showed on Monday.
In the report released on the first day of its online Davos Agenda 2022 summit, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said there is an urgent need to protect and add nature back into urban environments to stem this GDP loss. The good news is that nature-based solutions for infrastructure are 50 per cent cheaper than alternatives and deliver 28 per cent greater added value in terms of productivity, while they can also create much-needed jobs – nearly 60 million by 2030 if necessary investments are made.
Geneva-based WEF, which describes itself as an international organisation for public-private cooperation, said cities can take a leading role in unlocking economic opportunities with nature-based solutions. The Forum has been hosting its annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort town of Davos for 50 years every January as a congregation of leaders from across the world, but it had to be cancelled last year and has been deferred this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accordingly, the online Davos Agenda summit is being held for the second consecutive year during the scheduled week of the annual meeting. The virtual event will be held through January 21 and is being attended by leaders from across the world, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "Integrating nature-positive solutions can help protect cities from growing risks associated with extreme weather while driving sustainable economic growth," it added.
The report has been published by the WEF's 'BiodiverCities by 2030 Initiative', in collaboration with the Alexander von Humboldt Institute and the Government of Colombia. The WEF said the goal of its 2030 initiative is to reverse this existential global threat and move forward with a plan that will result in cities and nature co-existing in harmony by the end of the decade.
In making the economic case for BiodiverCities, Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for infrastructure and land-sparing are found to be cost-effective ways for cities to innovate and meet current challenges.
Spending USD 583 billion on NbS for infrastructure and on interventions that release land to nature could create more than 59 million jobs by 2030, including 21 million livelihood-enhancing jobs dedicated to restoring and protecting natural ecosystems. "In the conventional paradigm, urban development and environmental health are like oil and water,” said Akanksha Khatri, Head of Nature and Biodiversity at WEF.
"This report shows that this does not have to be the case. Nature can be the backbone of urban development. By recognizing cities as living systems, we can support conditions for the health of people, planet and economy in urban areas," she added. By incentivising investments in natural capital, cities can unlock the benefits of nature, as per the report.
"As cities think about building for the post-pandemic future, they have a priority to provide their citizens with a more equitable and prosperous quality of life by protecting their natural resources," said Mauricio Rodas, Co-Chair of the Global Commission on BiodiverCities by 2030 and former mayor of Quito, Ecuador. Cities don't need to be concrete jungles in conflict with nature in and outside their boundaries, rather they should be places where all people and nature co-exist and thrive together, according to the report.
In a separate report, the WEF said 65 per cent of China's GDP or about USD 9 trillion is at risk from disruption from nature loss, but implementing nature positive solutions could create nearly USD 2 trillion in business opportunity and add 88 million jobs by 2030.
"Businesses can create a virtuous cycle between people, planet and profit. Investing in and living in harmony with nature will better secure sustained performance and prosperity. Chinese businesses can harness technologies and innovation, while adopting and promoting the UN Global Biodiversity Framework to collectively shape a more resilient and beautiful future for China," said Gim Huay Neo, Managing Director, WEF.
The report, prepared in collaboration with Golden Bee, shows how significant business opportunities can be created if new business practices are adopted across three socio-economic systems: food, land and ocean use; infrastructure and the built environment; and energy and extractives. These systems are interconnected and can unlock untapped economic potential.
With inputs from PTI.