39 million new jobs if governments stop investing in subsidies which harm nature, says WWF as UN biodiversity talks kick off

Posted on August, 18 2021

As United Nations biodiversity negotiations begin next week, a new report commissioned by WWF reveals that 39 million jobs could be created if governments reallocated just one year’s worth of subsidies that harm biodiversity to a nature-positive stimulus instead.
The Halve Humanity’s Footprint on Nature to Safeguard our Future report includes modelling which shows such jobs could be created if the $500 billion governments spend on harmful subsidies every year was diverted into employment which is nature-positive, meaning that it improves the state of nature.
“It is the imperative of our times to avert ecosystem collapse and the climate crisis but governments currently spend at least US$500 billion a year on subsidies for activities such as unsustainable agriculture or overfishing which damage nature, with disastrous consequences for society, the economy and our wellbeing,” says Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “Not only would reallocating this spending towards sustainable practices help to reduce the impact on biodiversity, it would also help us transition towards a nature-positive economy, and reform our current unsustainable production and consumption model. By re-directing these resources – and the world has shown through its response to the COVID-19 crisis that significant financial shifts are possible – we could set off a virtuous circle towards creating US$10 trillion in annual business value and 400 million jobs for the new nature-positive economy.”
In 2020, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Nature and Business Report projected that ‘nature-positive’ solutions could create 395 million jobs by 2030 and $10.1 trillion in business opportunity. Several countries have already embarked upon just transitions towards a nature-positive economy which offer valuable lessons and inspiration.
WWF’s new report, produced by Dalberg Advisors, predicts that distributing this stimulus between countries equitably – that is, according to population, not economic strength – would create almost twice as many jobs as vice versa (39 million vs. 20 million). An equitable stimulus would thus also protect more biodiversity and help create green growth trajectories for less developed producer countries.
The research comes as negotiators prepare for a third round of talks on a new global biodiversity agreement which are due to get underway online on Monday. The talks are taking place under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the final agreed plan is currently scheduled to be adopted in October 2021 at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Kunming, China. It is widely expected that final negotiations and adoption will be delayed until physical meetings are possible in 2022.
The need to deliver an agreement to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 has never been greater, yet WWF is concerned that the world is failing to adequately respond to the nature crisis, thereby also jeopardising our ability to tackle the climate crisis and endangering the resources we all depend on for business and our very survival.
More than half the world’s GDP – US$44 trillion – is highly or moderately dependent on nature. Global environmental change puts nearly US$10 trillion of economic value at risk by 2050 and could result in large-scale price rises in major commodities such as timber and cotton. For example, deforestation of tropical rainforests risks creating unstable weather patterns that could drastically increase water scarcity in affected regions. Similarly, the destruction of coral reefs (e.g., via trawler fishing) displaces vital breeding grounds for the regeneration of global fish stocks.
“The upcoming negotiations present an opportunity for world leaders - eighty-nine of whom have endorsed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature committing to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 – to step up and deliver on their commitments, instructing their negotiators to secure a transformational outcome,” says Lin Li, Director of Global Policy and Advocacy at WWF International. “The draft text under review contains many of the elements necessary to a successful nature agreement, but it fails to adequately address the drivers of biodiversity loss, most notably our broken food systems. Conservation measures alone will not give us a nature-positive world. WWF is calling for countries to adopt a milestone to halve the footprint of production and consumption by 2030 to commit to a future that does not just limit damage to nature, but actively safeguards and improves it for future generations.”
Alongside the inclusion of a milestone to halve the footprint of production and consumption by 2030, WWF is urging countries to dramatically step up their ambition and commit to a mission of reversing biodiversity loss to secure a nature-positive world this decade. WWF welcomes the inclusion of a target to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030 in the current draft text, which must be conditional on an approach that respects and secures the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and also emphasizes that negotiators must work to significantly strengthen the implementation mechanism contained in the draft agreement if it is to be effective once adopted.

Notes to Editors
Contact: news@wwfint.org 
  • Dalberg’s modelling indicates that with an investment of $500 billion, 39 million jobs could be created in key industries such as sustainable agriculture, sustainable fisheries and sustainable infrastructure.

Jobs by nature-positive sector 
      # jobs (rounded to 100k)
Sustainable agriculture / food
Sustainable fisheries
Sustainable forestry
Circular economy
Sustainable infrastructure
Jobs by region 
# jobs (rounded to 100k) 
East Asia & Pacific 
Europe & Central Asia 
Latin America & Caribbean 
Middle East & North Africa 
North America 
South Asia 
Sub-Saharan Africa 
WWF believes that halving humanity’s footprint in areas such as land use and material footprint (the total amount of raw materials extracted to meet final consumption demands) matters as it will be a major step toward allowing humanity to reduce its demand for natural capital below the rate at which it naturally replenishes. This will enable a global economy in which both humanity and nature flourish.
  • To achieve this milestone by 2030, the new report is recommending that governments implement catalytic policies in three broad areas:     
1. Recognizing the value of natural capital and stopping overexploitation
2. Making food production and diets sustainable and healthy, and creating a zero-waste food system 
3. Mainstreaming circular and regenerative business models. 
  • Negotiations over the post-2020 global biodiversity framework began in 2019, with the final agreement currently scheduled to be adopted in 2021 at the UN Biodiversity talks (COP15) in Kunming, China. 
  • Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity met physically in Rome in February 2020 (Open Ended Working Group-2) for a round of negotiations, and technical meetings (SBSTTA-24 and SBI-3) were recently conducted virtually. The next round of negotiations (OEWG-3) is scheduled to take place virtually from 23 August to 3 September.
  • In January 2020, the Convention on Biological Diversity published a ‘zero draft’ - a preliminary and incomplete draft of the final global biodiversity agreement. This was followed by a further iteration in August 2020. In July 2021, the CBD published the first draft of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the text which will form the basis of the upcoming OEWG-3 negotiations.
Infographic of production and consumption report
© WWF Int