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::EXCLUSIVE:: Achieving nature-positive recovery in post-pandemic scenario


Different subsidiary bodies of the United Nations have been issuing forewarnings from time to time that unless corrective measures are taken up at emergency levels, unprecedented climate crises can cause untold misery to the world.

By Salam Rajesh

The global concerns on addressing issues on climate crises and seeking achievable solutions to meaningful economy recovery suffered in the wake of the current Covid-19 pandemic are topmost on agendas tabled in international deliberations. Responding to this concern, a recent analytical discussion forwarded by the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) suggests that the best pathway is in nature-positive economy recovery planning.

FOLU’s discussions as outlined in the report ‘Nature-Positive Recovery for People, Economy & Climate (July, 2020)’, presented by the Nature4Climate (N4C) coalition, asserts that nature-positive recovery is “both possible and sensible for creating jobs, ensuring our future health and economic well-being, stabilizing our climate and protecting biodiversity”.

The report estimates that the processes involved in which people at large produce and consume food, and based on the current land-use structure globally, cost around 12 trillion US Dollar a year in damage to the natural environment, human health and development as such. In a worst-case scenario where no remedial measures are taken up to control or minimize this impact, the report states that the fallout can cost more than 16 trillion US Dollar every year by 2050 – which is certainly huge by any standard of measurement.

Research by the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that 44 trillion US Dollar of economic value generation, which is given as more than half of the world’s total GDP, is ‘moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services, and is therefore exposed to nature loss’. This could underline industrial and other commercial activities gradually edging into nature reserves or where the landscape contains important biodiversity areas, such as, for example, the tropical rainforests in the Amazon Basin and in South East Asia.

This is reinforced by the concerns shown by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate which states that the “global public goods benefits from forests, which would be in the order of trillions if properly counted, are obscured by the more tangible private benefits through priced goods – timber, land for agriculture – accruing to those able to seize them. A first-order priority, therefore, is to recognize the true economic value forests offer; and then to establish a ‘new forest economy’ which reflects that value”.

This is suggestive of the diverse ecosystem services rendered by important and significant biodiversity reserves, such as the tropical and sub-tropical rainforests, mangroves, wetlands and peatlands, ocean seagrass meadows, amongst others. The current tendency is to devastate these vital biodiversity reserves without either studying or understanding the intrinsic values these reserves offer to humanity and to the world. Exploitive industries have practically destroyed huge areas of such important biodiversity reserves. The fallout is on what is being discussed on climate crises.

The N4C’s report further provides that the three largest sectors which are highly dependent on nature and generating close to 8 trillion US Dollar of gross value added (GVA) are: (a) construction (4 trillion USD), (b) agriculture (2.5 trillion USD), and (c) food and beverages (1.4 trillion USD). This defines the stress on nature from these three sectors globally. In addition to constructions of various magnitudes, one of the most pervasive human activities that are seen to deplete green cover extensively is commercial agriculture viewed with cattle ranching and mono-crop plantation of commercial trees – such as oil palms.

The N4C report outlines that forests are home to 350 million people around the world, while 60 million indigenous peoples depend on forests for their livelihoods, and around 70 percent of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. In addition to the direct benefits to people, forests – particularly intact forest systems – support a wide range of secondary benefits such as climate change mitigation, freshwater regulation, and human health. This is specifically relevant to indigenous peoples and local communities who thrive upon forest resources for their living and sustenance. So naturally the health of the forest ecosystem is directly relevant to the lives of these forests dependent communities.

The report further says that in Africa and in South Asia, the majority of the population is smallholder farmers or forest dependent people living at the economic margin. The Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that around 1.6 billion people, that is, up to 20 percent of the world’s total population, rely on forest resources for their livelihoods, and that nearly 1.2 billion population use trees on farms to generate food and cash. The interdependence of forests and communities, therefore, becomes more relevant in terms of food security for the marginalized sectors.

In the midst of these discussions, there are alarming statistics emerging to show how much of forest loss impacts humanity. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), for instance, found that between 1997 and 2011, the world lost an estimated 4 to 20 trillion USD per year in direct ecosystem services owing to land-cover change and 6 to 11 trillion USD per year from land degradation. The losses are exceedingly huge by this standard.

It was further analyzed by the FOLU that the ways humans produce and consume food, and how humans use land currently, cost 12 trillion USD per year in damage to the environment, and overall health and development of human beings. The analysis stresses that in the eventuality that people do nothing to resolve this, the cost will rise to more than 16 trillion USD each year by 2050.

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate opines that ‘unchecked climate change might result in global economic losses in the order of trillions of US dollars. Given forests’ vital role in climate regulation, the true economic benefits of reducing deforestation and forest degradation are of a similar magnitude’. This projection reinforces the objective of revitalizing forest covers to regain the losses suffered by humanity in terms of the impacts of unnatural calamities that are said to be directly influenced by ‘climate change’.

Different subsidiary bodies of the United Nations have been issuing forewarnings from time to time that unless corrective measures are taken up at emergency levels, unprecedented climate crises can cause untold misery to the world. Instances are already evident in extreme weather conditions throughout the world, ranging from extensive wildfires, recurrent cyclonic storms, glacial lake outburst floods, extreme temperature, freak storms, and many more. UN’s countdown to 2050 is already a harsh warning for humanity that unless decisions are taken firmly today, the tomorrows shall be extremely unfortunate for the generations to come.

The answer, therefore, lies in how strategies are drawn up post-haste to address nature-based solutions in resolving many of the underlying factors connected to the perceived climate crises. Nature-based solutions are seen as the best option to not only fight back the negative impacts of anthropogenic activities, it would also address other issues such as food and water security, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

(The writer is a media professional working on environmental issues. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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