A $10 trillion (Dh36.7tn) green recovery plan can create 395 million jobs by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum.
The new report from the organisation identified 15 sectors that could tackle carbon emissions, climate change, and threats to biodiversity as governments and businesses look to stimulate growth as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Public calls are getting louder for businesses and government to do better,” said Akanksha Khatri, head of the Nature Action Agenda, at the forum. "We can protect our food supplies, make better use of our infrastructure and tap into new energy sources by transitioning to nature-positive solutions.”
Economic inequality and the climate crisis have come into stark relief during the pandemic.
Global economies are forecast to contract 7.6 per cent in 2020 in the absence of a Covid-19 vaccine, and unemployment in some of the world’s largest economies could more than double to about 11 per cent, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Meanwhile, the United Nations issued a warning last week that the planet is at risk of passing a key temperature threshold in the next five years, putting the Paris Climate Accord agreement to limit temperature rise to 1.5° Celsius out of reach.
“As finance ministers look to stimulate their economies amid the fragility exposed by Covid-19, they must seize the moment to integrate nature into fiscal policy," said Jeremy Oppenheim, founder and senior partner of Systemiq, a sustainability consultancy based in London.
The forum identified market opportunities worth trillions of dollars in food production, infrastructure and energy that address the urgent need to heal economies and the planet.
The report is based on previous examples where business outcomes have been improved by "nature-positive" means.
Smart farming utilising sensors and satellite imagery in improved crop yields on average by 60 per cent in Indonesia.
At Suzhou Industrial Park’s green development in China, gross domestic product increased 260-fold, partially through green development.
In Vietnam, the incomes of people living in coastal communities more than doubled following the restoration of mangroves.
What the world grows and eats makes up around $10tn of global GDP and employs up to 40 per cent of the global workforce. Planet-friendly methods that employ technology can create 191 million jobs and bring in $3.6tn of additional revenue or cost savings by 2030, according to the forum.
One of the biggest opportunities is in renewable energy. The industry is expected to attract $650bn and investment returns greater than 10 per cent by 2030.
Carlos Alvarado Quesada, the President of Costa Rica, a country which produces nearly all of its energy from renewable sources, said the pandemic is "an opportunity to reset humanity’s relationship with nature". He appealed to other governments to "mainstream" the use of renewable energy.
Solar energy without subsidies matched fossil fuel costs in more than 30 countries and was projected to be cheaper than coal in China and India by 2021, according to the forum. Stimulus packages geared toward solar and other commercialised renewables can generate millions of jobs.
The forum is recommending governments measure economic performance beyond GDP, incentivise private sector innovation and improve management of marine and land assets. The forum is also advocating for investment in reskilling labour forces and increased financial support for no-carbon solutions.
“Biodiversity threats are increasingly becoming a core concern to businesses across every sector of the economy and so-called ‘business-as-usual’ is not an option,” said Fraser Thompson, managing director of AlphaBeta, which co-authored the report.
“The good news is that this report demonstrates there is a pathway for business that can not only strengthen the resilience of operations but create major new growth opportunities.”