Nature Conservation: McKinsey report quantifies global benefits

A new McKinsey report highlights the business case for stepping up global investments in natural capital. The authors illustrate the critical need for expanding nature conservation, analyzing global risks to natural capital, and the crucial value of nature for human activities.

To reduce the loss of natural capital around the world, scientists and policy-makers demand the permanent conservation of at least 30% of the planet’s surface by 2030. This would nearly double the protected areas on land and in national waters. The McKinsey report aims to provide a methodology to evaluate the range of co-benefits from such nature conservation efforts to support decisions-makers.

The report presents different conservation scenarios based on geospatial analytics. Each scenario assesses the impact of expanded conservation on climate change, jobs, GDP, zoonotic disease risk, and biodiversity. In addition, it provides estimates of the additional operating costs of conservation measures. According to this methodology, protecting 30% of the world’s surface by 2030 could have a significant impact on sustainable development:

  • Through avoided deforestation and natural forest regrowth, atmospheric carbon dioxide could be reduced by 0.9 gigatons to 2.6 gigatons annually.
  • About 400,000 to 650,000 jobs could be directly created, for example, in wildlife management and area infrastructure. Protecting natural capital could also foster local economic growth, “generating or safeguarding on the order of $300 billion to $500 billion in GDP and 30 million jobs in ecotourism and sustainable fishing alone.”
  • Slowing ecosystem fragmentation is expected to lower the risk of new zoonotic diseases emerging.

The authors acknowledge that these results underestimate the value of nature conservation, as the report could not quantify the benefits in detail on a global scale. To support different stakeholders in expanding their conservation efforts, the report provides a set of questions and practical recommendations. These recommendations, for instance, related to financing solutions, can also be highly relevant for designing green recovery measures.