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U.N.: Fixing climate, biodiversity and land degradation will cost $8.1 trillion

New report suggests Earth's planetary crises require a $8.1 trillion investment in nature-based solutions. Photo by Focke Strangmann/EPA
New report suggests Earth's planetary crises require a $8.1 trillion investment in nature-based solutions. Photo by Focke Strangmann/EPA

May 27 (UPI) -- Planet Earth is in desperate need of funding, according to the United Nations.

According to a new report -- published Thursday by the U.N. Environment Program and the World Economic Forum -- an $8.1 trillion investment in nature is required to solve the planet's compounding climate, biodiversity and land degradation crises.

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To curb climate change, reduce biodiversity losses and heal the planet's degraded habitat, scientists suggest annual funding for nature-based solutions will need to reach $536 billion by 2050, a four-fold increase over current expenditures.

The authors of the new report suggest one of the most effective ways to invest in nature is to redirect capital flows away from fossil fuels -- by ending oil and gas subsidies, for example -- and toward green solutions to the planet's myriad problems.

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Regulatory reforms must be put in place, U.N. researchers say, to ensure all major private sector decisions consider the ongoing climate and biodiversity crises. The private sector must be made to internalize, not externalize, the environmental costs of business as usual.

As large parts of the global economy begin to rebound in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an appetite for investment, but if governments and the private sector fail to place a premium on sustainability, researchers suggest efforts to build back threaten to worsen, not relieve, the planet's triple crisis.

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A separate U.N. report, published earlier this year, found investment in nature-based solutions accounted for just 2.5% of projected economic stimulus spending.

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"Biodiversity loss is already costing the global economy 10 percent of its output each year," UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said in a news release. "If we do not sufficiently finance nature-based solutions, we will impact the capacities of countries to make progress on other vital areas such as education, health and employment. If we do not save nature now, we will not be able to achieve sustainable development."

The newly published report calls on governments, financial institutions and businesses to fund reforestation, sustainable agriculture and restoration of marine ecosystems.

Report authors estimate efforts to sufficiently restore, conserve and manage forests, alone, will cost more than $203 billion annually.

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"The cost of establishing new forests is the most important component of annual investment needs as it accounts for 80 percent of total costs," researchers wrote in the new report.

Currently, private sector finance accounts for more than half of all investments in climate solutions, but just 14 percent of investment in nature-based solutions.

"A wide range of financial instruments can be used by public and private financial services organizations to channel capital to activities, actions or assets," report authors wrote.

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Equity, loans, bonds and grants can help redirect capital to nature-based solutions, while insurance, guarantees and off-take agreements can be used to mitigation or transfer risk. Meanwhile, fiscal or revenue instruments, such as subsidies, can be used to bolster investments in nature.

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