The ecosystems of around one-fifth of the world’s countries are at risk of collapsing because of the destruction of wildlife and their habitats. This is according to an analysis by insurance firm Swiss Re.
According to the report, more than half of the world’s GDP – $42 trillion – depends on high-functioning biodiversity. However, the risk of tipping points is growing, and natural resources such as food, clean water and air have already been damaged by human activity.
“A staggering fifth of countries globally are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing due to a decline in biodiversity and related beneficial services,” said the company, one of the world’s biggest reinsurers, in its report.
Report identifies at-risk countries
The report ranked Australia, South Africa and Israel at the top, saying that these countries pose the highest risk to biodiversity and ecosystem services. Other countries included on the list were India, Spain and Belgium. The report also highlights countries with fragile ecosystems and large farming sectors, including Nigeria and Pakistan, as particularly vulnerable.
Countries with largely intact ecosystems, such as Brazil and Indonesia, were also listed due to their strong dependence on natural resources. According to Swiss Re, these countries highlighted the importance of protecting biodiversity. (Related: Pollution is “devastating” China’s natural ecosystem and contaminating its food supply.)
“If the ecosystem service decline goes on [in countries at risk], you would see then scarcities unfolding even more strongly, up to tipping points,” said lead author Oliver Schelske.
Swiss Re’s chief research officer John Bohn added that the study was “the first index to our knowledge that pulls together indicators of biodiversity and ecosystems to cross-compare around the world, and then specifically link back to the economies of those locations.”
Bohn admitted that the index was initially designed to help Swiss Re and other insurers assess ecosystem risks when setting premiums for businesses. That said, he stated that it could have wider use as it could allow both governments and businesses “to factor biodiversity and ecosystems into their economic decision-making.”
“There is a clear need to assess the state of ecosystems so that the global community can minimize further negative impact on economies across the world,” said Swiss Re CEO Christian Mumenthaler. “This important piece of work provides a data-driven foundation for understanding the economic risks of deteriorating biodiversity and ecosystems. In turn, we can inform governmental decision-making to help improve ecosystem restoration and preservation. We can also support corporations and investors as they fortify themselves against environmental shocks. Armed with this information, we can also ensure the provision of stronger insurance services.”
World leaders promise to save ecosystem, but they’ve already failed before
Swiss Re’s report comes on the heels of more than 60 national leaders pledging to embrace sustainable economic systems and clamp down on pollution as part of a “meaningful action” to halt the destruction of the ecosystem.
Among the 64 leaders who signed the “Leader’s Pledge for Nature” are French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The commitments include a renewed effort to reduce deforestation, eliminate environmentally harmful subsidies, stop unsustainable fishing practices and begin transitioning to sustainable food production.
The pledge, however, came alongside grim news. During the same month, the U.N. revealed that the world’s governments had failed to satisfy a single goal to stem ecosystem destruction set during the previous decade. None of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets initially agreed upon in Japan in 2010 were met. This represents the second straight decade where governments have failed to meet targets.
With this and the more recent Swiss Re report, it looks like governments around the world face an uphill battle when it comes to protecting the ecosystem.Leave a comment