Cities contribute nearly 80 per cent to the global economy, but they are also responsible for nearly three-fourths of greenhouse gas emissions and nearly half of the GDP in cities around the world or $31 trillion is at risk of disruption from nature loss, a new study showed on Monday.
In its report released on the first day of its online Davos Agenda 2022 summit, the World Economic Forum WEF said there was an urgent need to protect and add nature back into urban environments to stem the GDP loss.
There is a good news that nature-based solutions for infrastructure are 50 per cent cheaper than alternative solutions and deliver 28 per cent more added value in terms of productivity, while they can create nearly 60 million jobs by 2030 if necessary investments are made.
Cities can play a leading role in unlocking economic opportunities with nature-based solutions, according to the Geneva-based WEF, which describes itself as an international organisation for public-private cooperation.
The Forum has been hosting its annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort town of Davos for 50 years every January as a gathering of leaders from across the world, but it has been postponed this year due to the COVID - 19 pandemic.
The online Davos Agenda summit will be held for the second consecutive year during the scheduled week of the annual meeting. The virtual event will be held through January 21 and will be attended by leaders from across the world, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It said that incorporating nature-positive solutions can help protect cities from the growing risks associated with extreme weather while driving sustainable economic growth.
The report was published by the WEF's BiodiverCities by 2030 Initiative' in collaboration with the Alexander von Humboldt Institute and the Government of Colombia.
The WEF said the goal of the 2030 initiative is to reverse this existential global threat and move forward with a plan that will result in cities and nature co-existing in harmony by the end of the decade.
The report said that there should be multi-stakeholder action to integrate nature as infrastructure into the built environment.
The economic case for BiodiverCities, Nature-based Solutions NbS for infrastructure and land-sparing is found to be cost-effective ways for cities to innovate and meet current challenges.
Spending $583 billion on NbS for infrastructure and interventions that release land to nature could create more than 59 million jobs by 2030, including 21 million livelihood-enhancing jobs dedicated to restoring and protecting natural ecosystems.
Akanksha Khatri, head of nature and biodiversity at WEF said that urban development and environmental health are like oil and water in the conventional paradigm.
This doesn't have to be the case, according to the report. Nature is the backbone of urban development. She said that by recognizing cities as living systems, we can support the health of people, planet and economy in urban areas.
The report said that cities can unlock the benefits of nature by incentivising investments in natural capital.
As cities think about building for the post-pandemic future, they have a priority to provide their citizens with a more equitable and prosperous life by protecting their natural resources, said Mauricio Rodas, co-chair of the Global Commission on BiodiverCities by 2030 and former mayor of Quito, Ecuador.
Cities don't need to be concrete jungles in conflict with nature, rather they should be places where all people and nature co-exist and thrive together, according to the report.
In a separate report, the WEF said that 65 per cent of China's GDP or about $9 trillion is at risk from nature loss, but implementing nature positive solutions could create $2 trillion in business opportunity and add 88 million jobs by the year 2030.
Businesses can create a virtuous cycle between people, planet and profit. Investing in harmony with nature will ensure sustained performance and prosperity. Gim Huay Neo, Managing Director, WEF, said that Chinese businesses can harness technologies and innovation while adopting and promoting the UN Global Biodiversity Framework can be used to shape a more resilient and beautiful future for China.
The report, prepared in collaboration with Golden Bee, shows how significant business opportunities can be created if new business practices are adopted across three socio-economic systems: food, land and ocean use, infrastructure and the built environment, and energy and extractives. Untapped economic potential can be unlocked by these systems as they are interconnected.