Press Release: Fund Nature, Fund the Future

09 June 2021 – New Vivid Economics research shows how the EU’s recovery plans are missing a triple win opportunity for nature, climate and the economy

9th June, 2021New analysis released today from Vivid Economics, examining the EU Member States’ COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery Plans, has found that most plans have missed the opportunity to invest in nature-based solutions that would create more jobs and economic value than alternatives, while also enhancing long-term resilience, and helping to address the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.  This analysis was presented and discussed with the EU Commission, the EU Parliament, the G20 Italian Presidency and various private sector and civil society experts during a multi-stakeholder dialogue convened by the Green and Nature Positive Recovery Partnership, also on the 9th of June.

In the 10 country plans analysed, less than 1% of spending is allocated to nature-based solutions which have both a short- and long-term payback for economic activity, emissions reductions and biodiversity gains. Vivid Economics analysed nature-based solutions such as reforestation, agroforestry, wetland restoration and urban greening, which were found to deliver outsized returns in terms of job creation and gross value-added (GVA) as well as enhancing carbon sequestration. For example, the relatively modest investment value of €3.7 billion into nature-based solutions across four countries – Bulgaria, France, Italy and Poland – will create around 140,000 jobs and €7 billion of economic activity over fifteen years.

“Our research shows that nature-based solutions are particularly strong stimulus measures since their employment and economic impacts are front-loaded and their upskilling demands are relatively low,” said Jeffrey Beyer, the economist who led the research for Vivid Economics. “Nature-based solutions can also be targeted at particularly hard-hit areas within Member State countries, including rural places where new employment opportunities can be harder to identify. For countries with net-zero climate targets, nature-based solutions are the only investments that actually withdraw carbon from the atmosphere.”

The EU’s National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) aim to mitigate the economic and social impact of the pandemic while building a more sustainable and cohesive Europe-wide economy. They outline how the €672.5 billion Resilience and Recovery Facility (RRF) will be invested to advance the EU’s green transition among other priorities like digital transformation and competitiveness.

While the NRRPs largely deliver on the climate agenda, they do not contain an adequate mechanism to assess their impact upon nature and do not form a coherent response to the interconnected crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and the economic ramifications of COVID-19. Vivid Economics analysis of the nature impact of ten NRRPs is striking: only 8% of spending enhances nature, which misses a major opportunity to invest in a nature-positive recovery, while 10% of spending harms nature, showing an outsized neglect of nature considerations, while no sufficient conditions ensure that the rest of the spending is nature-positive.

Simon Zadek, Chair of Finance of Biodiversity (F4B), said: “Our economies and societies are not 10% or 30% but 100% dependent on nature. The need – and the EU’s commitment – to rebuild after the tragedy of COVID-19 offers a once-in-a-generation, or maybe just the one chance we will ever have, of taking account of the need to conserve and regenerate nature, for it to continue to benefit us all. The starting point is the principle of ‘do no significant harm’, but we have to move beyond this as it is too little, too late. There is only one smart gameplay that effectively serves our collective interests – that the EU can and should demonstrate leadership on green recovery measures by ensuring that every euro of public finance be aligned to nature-positive as well as net zero outcomes.”

Nature-based solutions provide habitats, support biodiversity, build natural resilience and bring health benefits – and can be implemented in all Member States with impressive results. For example, in Italy, redirecting 7.5% of the country’s NRRP spending, or €14.8 billion, towards nature-based solutions could create a net gain of nearly 235,000 permanent jobs and additional net returns of over €17 billion[1] compared to the current plan. The same reallocation of resources would reduce the net emissions impact of Italy’s NRRP by 24 million tonnes CO2eq while enhancing nature and biodiversity. In France, redirecting 7.5% of its NRRP spending (€7.5 billion), towards nature-based solutions could create a net gain of 30,000 permanent jobs and additional net returns of over €8 billion[2] compared to the current plan. The same reallocation of resources would reduce the net emissions impact of France’s NRRP by 10 million tonnes CO2eq.

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Quotes from partners:

“The COVID-19 crisis has shown how vulnerable we all are, and how important it is to restore the balance between human activity and nature. By not addressing this balance and failing to invest sufficiently in nature, Member States have refused to take Europe’s resilience seriously and will fail to protect human and planetary health. This is a critical decade for humanity. Significant improvements are needed to embed nature and environmental sustainability in Europe’s economic rebuild – a no-regrets opportunity to deliver short-term economic benefits as well as long-term impact.” Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Co-President of The Club of Rome

“There is no green recovery without ‘nature-positive’ spending, and this important research provides yet more evidence that investing in a nature-positive recovery will pay back now and will be still creating value in 30 years’ time. By protecting and restoring vital ecosystems, we can not only deliver immediate economic returns but also contribute to the further decarbonisation of our economies and enable countries and companies meet their net zero commitments.” Lucy Almond, Chair Nature4Climate

“This report shows that there is still a long way to go to unlock the triple win opportunities for climate, people and nature. Now is the time for a systemic transformation of our economy. We can only succeed by working together, through a process of dialogue and radical collaboration between the EU Commission, the Parliament, Member States, the private sector and civil society.” Elise Buckle, Director of Climate & Sustainability and coordinator of the Green and Nature Positive Recovery Partnership

“The National Recovery and Resilience Plans are expected to deliver on environmental objectives, yet we wonder how the EC has assessed them and what role the EU Taxonomy plays and will play in the future. We need a reliable tool with transparent criteria – especially to avoid greenwashing.” Gabriel Schwaderer, Director of EuroNatur

“The actual recovery will depend on whether the investments and reforms made today will support the green and just transition that Europe needs to realise. But despite far-reaching efforts, there are still gaps between the ambitions and what is actually being planned by Member States. Protecting biodiversity, recognising its essential role in the economy and building local resilience by addressing existing economic disparities are two key weak points of the national plans. We are particularly worried about the fact that most plans lack explicit consideration of the regions and people that are left behind through the combined impact of digitalisation and globalisation.” Elizabeth Dirth, Head of the Analysis Team at the ZOE Institute for Future-Fit Economies

“After decades of underinvestment and neglect, biodiversity and nature conservation must be the priority in building back better. Yet Member States are completely overlooking the potential of EU recovery funds. Many draft plans do not include a single measure to address the failing health of nature, despite the golden opportunity to finally start investing in improvements.” Daniel Thomson, EU Policy Officer with CEE Bankwatch Network

[1] Reallocating €14.8 billion towards nature-based solutions in Italy would generate €41 billion of gross value-added at the expense of €24 billion of foregone economic activity from other measures not pursued, yielding a net gain of €17 billion

[2] Reallocating €7.5 billion towards nature-based solutions in France would generate €21 billion of gross value-added at the expense of €13 billion of foregone economic activity from other measures not pursued, yielding a net gain of €8 billion

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