- Recovery from COVID-19 focusing on positive environmental changes would create $10.1 trillion in business opportunities, World Economic Forum says.
- Transition would require $2.7 trillion in annual investment through 2030, improving current businesses and creating new ones.
- Pandemic presented the world with an opportunity for a “Great Reset,” the World Economic Forum says.
The deadly coronavirus pandemic provides the world with a chance to shift to a nature-positive economy that would create an estimated $10.1 trillion in business opportunities and 395 million jobs by 2030, the World Economic Forum says.
“The Great Reset” would focus on three main economic areas responsible for four-fifths of the world’s biodiversity loss, the Switzerland-based organization said in a new report. Those sectors — food and land use, infrastructure and building, and energy and mining — represent more than a third of the global economy and provide up to two-thirds of all jobs, offering the most opportunity to improve the planet.
“Investing in biodiversity and the environment offers the chance of building better economies and our resilience as a species,” Carlos Alvarado Quesada, president of Costa Rica, said on a teleconference introducing the report. “Protecting our natural resources is not only relevant for our survival but also for our livelihoods.”
The report’s proposals aren’t cheap, carrying an estimated price tag of $2.7 trillion in annual public-private investments by 2030 for the changes needed. By comparison, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says he will spend $2 trillion to fight climate change if elected. According to United Nations’ estimates, the global tourism industry may lose $3.3 trillion if the pandemic lockdowns extend to 12 months.
“Invest $2.7 trillion to capture the $10 trillion in business opportunities. It can be done,” Akanksha Khatri, head of the forum’s Nature Action Agenda, said on the call. She added, “There’s more government money being spent on processes that hurt nature rather than help nature,” citing subsidies for oil and gas companies as examples of money that can be redirected.
Putting world-class proper technology in the hands of farmers would take the “guessing out of farming,” improving crop yields and land utilization, said Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of Norwegian chemical company Yara International. Regenerative farming could be used to sequester carbon, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“What if in addition to getting paid for their crops, they got paid for sequestering carbon?” he suggested on the call. “We should think of soil as an asset and we need to treat it accordingly.”
Around the world, an estimated 40 billion square meters of floor space — an area roughly equivalent to the size of Switzerland — is not used at full occupancy during office hours, according to the report. More compact urban development would yield benefits including productivity gains, reduced air pollution and fewer traffic accidents.
“You live better when you don’t have this urban sprawl,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said on the teleconference.
While highlighting the benefits of the transition envisioned by the report, the call’s participants acknowledged that the changes would lead to many people worldwide losing their current jobs.
“Inevitably, as we wind down certain industries and expand others, that transition would be difficult,” David Perry, CEO of Boston-based Indigo Agriculture, said on the call “It’s still necessary and a much better outcome on the other side.”
“The result will be a more resilient job,” he added.
Moreover, the changes have to happen, the participants said.
“We may think this pandemic is bad,” Andersen said, “but it is nothing compared to what climate change may do to us.”