Spending on nature would be the investment of a lifetime

26 Jun 19

Economic leaders at this year’s G20 Summit must support investment in using nature to tackle issues such as climate change, say conservation finance experts Margaret Kuhlow and Andrew Deutz. 



When world leaders gather this weekend in Osaka for the , attention will turn once more to the challenge of realising sustainable and inclusive economic growth that includes progress toward poverty reduction, human health, and women’s empowerment.

Hot include encouraging business-led innovation to combat climate change, promoting ‘quality infrastructure’ investment, and strengthening financial resilience in the face of natural disasters.

The rising incidence of extreme weather already , and to mitigate associated financial risks, recently recognised the importance of better integrating environmental and social considerations into infrastructure development.

The most cost-effective and environmentally sound way to deliver resilience and prosperity is to radically increase investment in nature-based solutions. This would achieve emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement, and deliver Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, life below water, and life on land.

In meeting such enormous challenges, nature is our strongest ally.

Natural returns

We need a much deeper commitment to nature-based solutions – including reforestation and smarter management of farmland, wetlands and peatlands – which together, have the potential , while also ing reverse nature loss.

Coastal wetlands, for example, prevented an additional .

Regardless of the potential for such significant benefits, nature-based solutions currently receive only about .

Building wisely

The estimated in infrastructure development needed between now and 2030 will double the amount of infrastructure on Earth. Poor design and location choices degrade natural systems, and if high carbon, lock-in unsustainability for decades.

A road is not just a road. In the Brazilian Amazon, , and in the montane forests of Southeast Asia, landslides are .

Considering the benefits nature provides when planning traditional infrastructure is vital – especially in meeting the needs of hundreds of millions of people who still lack access to basic services like electricity, water, and sanitation.

To realise the benefits of infrastructure without incurring high environmental costs, the G20 – especially through the international Development Finance Institutions it supports – must apply strong planning and procurement for these investments.

Encouragingly, the T20 – an advisory body to the G20 – by encouraging governments to focus on – not just to do infrastructure projects right but to do the right infrastructure projects. The has shown this s avoid the most environmentally and socially damaging projects, and achieve the triple win of faster delivery, higher financial returns, and better environmental outcomes. And a new World Bank report has found , with $4 in benefit for every $1 invested.

We need to encourage investment in a new generation of policies and projects that harness the power of nature and to lower costs, increase resilience, and deliver the SDGs.

Natural capital in jeopardy

There is that nature is in decline as never before, growing recognition that , and that the longer we wait to avert the climate catastrophe the more costly it will be. And yet we are still not acting to address these interrelated crises.

The way we currently feed, fuel, and finance ourselves is pushing nature to the brink. Last month’s from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was a clarion call that Earth’s natural systems are operating in the red.

Nature is worth an to the global economy every year. We need to invest in rather than use up the that sustains us, doing all we can to deliver well-being and prosperity by sustaining our planet’s precious natural systems.

It is still scientifically and technically possible to restore nature, deliver the SDGs, and avert dangerous climate change – but that world is only possible if

New Deal


Last month, in direct response to the IPBES assessment, decided to accelerate efforts to reverse nature loss and support a post-2020 global biodiversity conservation framework aligned with the SDGs in the .

Margaret KulhowG20 leaders now have an opportunity to build on this ambition. Beyond redoubling efforts to implement the Paris Agreement and deliver the SDGs, we need a that puts our natural world on the path to recovery.

If we nature, nature will us.

  • Andrew Deutz
    Margaret Kuhlow and Andrew Deutz

    Margaret Kuhlow [pictured above right] is WWF’s finance practice leader, and Andrew Deutz is TNC director of Global Policy, Institutions and Conservation Finance [pictured left] 

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