If governments and businesses across the world focused on ‘nature-positive’ solutions to economic growth, 395 million jobs could be created by 2030, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Every single Australian sector, especially the agriculture, banking and investment, energy, infrastructure and supply chains industries, could be overhauled in a way that could lead to thousands of new jobs and lessened damage on the environment, according to the WEF’s Future of Nature and Business report.
There are 15 areas in the socio-economy that could create US $10.1 trillion dollars of business opportunities around the globe within 10 years that would involve ‘transitions’ in the areas of food, land and ocean use; infrastructure and the built environment; and energy and extraction of resources, the report said.
“Currently, these systems represent over a third of the global economy and provide up to two-thirds of all jobs.
“Transitioning these systems to nature-positive models is necessary both to stave off the rising risks associated with the loss of nature and to meet the growing demands of investors and other stakeholders for business to fulfil a positive role in society,” the report said.
“But a nature-positive model can also unlock significant benefits.”
Addressing these issues would do more than just create jobs; it would also save some parts of the world’s biodiversity from extinction.
“Together, these threats endanger around 80 per cent of the total threatened and near-threatened species,” the report said.
These are the fifteen changes that would need to be made:
Food, land, and ocean use
Societies should transform sectors to restore environmental ecosystems and reduce the footprint of agriculture and fishing on ecosystems.
Agriculture should become more productive and regenerative, with farming practices to be transformed by new technologies to increase biodiversity, enrich soils, improve water management, etc.
Oceans should be made more healthy and productive by managing wild fisheries sustainably, reducing degradation and replenishing overexploited fish stocks.
Forests need to be managed sustainably, using techniques like reduced-impact logging, better harvest planning and precision forestry. The rights of Indigenous communities also have to be considered.
Over-consumption of resource-intensive food should be curbed and we should transition away from ‘planet-compatible consumption’, including wasteful fast fashion.
Transparent and sustainable supply chains should be supported by integrating transparency, traceability, sustainable sourcing, and eliminate legality.
“Together, the business opportunities associated with these six transitions could create almost $3.6 trillion of annual additional revenue or costs savings while creating 191 million new jobs by 2030,” the report said.
Infrastructure and built environment
According to the WEF, 40 per cent of global GDP comes from the built environment, with cities often the engines of modern economies. But the rapid expansion of urban areas is a threat to surrounding ecosystems, and unless action is taken, the world will see 1.5 million people added to cities per week.
“Decisions made on infrastructure, including those that will be made as part of the stimulus packages for COVID-19 recovery, have long-lasting impacts and will play a crucial role in influencing the future of societies and their relationship with nature.”
Built environments should be made more compact to rein in the spread of cities. This will require better planning of space and land use and shift away from suburban-style living.
Infrastructure design should be ‘nature-positive’, meaning that heating, cooling and lighting can leverage nature trough roofs, walls, raingardens etc that can improve health, reduce greenhouse gases and costs.
Urban utilities should be made smarter and safer through modern energy, and more efficient sanitation to reduce airborne and waterborne pollution.
Nature should be protected as part of infrastructure, meaning natural ecosystems like floodplains, wetlands and forests should be protected and restored with Indigenous peoples.
‘Connecting’ or transport infrastructure like bridges, emission ‘offsets’, new forms of transportation should be improved to reduce the burden on other infrastructure and make way for bigger projects.
“Together, the business opportunities associated with these five transitions could create over $3 trillion of additional annual revenues or cost savings and create 117 million jobs by 2030,” the report said.
Energy and extractives
The extraction production, manufacturing and generation of energy and materials accounts for 23 per cent of global GDP and 16 per cent of jobs – but also poses a major threat to biodiversity.
But improving consumption efficiency can reduce the amount of resources we need, the report said.
Circular and resource-efficient modes of production should be rapidly scaled to reduce the new resources we need.
Metals and minerals should be extracted in a ‘nature-positive’ way through non-invasive exploration techniques, more efficient extraction, and better remediation of ecosystems once extraction is complete.
Sustainable materials supply chains should be supported through conservation initiatives, new technologies and corporate commitments.
Energy should transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewables, which will involve improving the design and resource demand of renewable energy projects.
“Together, the business opportunities associated with these four transitions could create additional annual revenue or costs savings in 2030 while creating 87 million new jobs.”
These measures will require cooperation from the business sector, policy-makers as well as a shift in behaviour from consumers.
And amid the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, the will to support new policies must be particularly strong.
“Recovery packages in response to the crisis must not reinforce existing negative economic models, but rather support investments in alternative nature-positive pathways,” the report said.
Businesses will need to identify transitions relevant to them and figure out how to support them, as well as transform corporate policies and best practices.
Business leaders should also explore how they can best cooperate with the private sector.
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