According to the World Economic Forum, $44 trillion of global economic value is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services, making up over half of global GDP. ZSL and WWF’s Living Planet Index reveals that, since 1970, there has been a 69 per cent decline in global monitored wildlife populations, and it is predicted that a million species are on course for extinction by 2050.
Major financial institutions have worked hard on measuring the economic risk of the threat to nature. The numbers are eye-watering and tell us that we face unprecedented systemic economic risk from the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
The UK’s landmark Dasgupta Review, in 2021, highlighted the economic value of nature and the peril of destroying it. This was followed by the Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework, agreed by international governments in December 2022. Halting biodiversity loss by 2030 and meeting the framework’s target to protect 30 per cent of the planet for nature is imperative.
But international treaties won’t succeed alone in reaching those targets. We urgently need more investment in the solutions, based on the best available science, to mobilise a wall of private capital outside government.
As a long time investor in solutions to mitigate against climate change and biodiversity loss, much of what we see in the NatureTech or natural capital space are businesses, solutions and business models that lack defensible intellectual property, don’t have grounding in bioscience and are not evidence-led. Many make claims to solve problems in ways that, when one looks at the evidence, are little more than greenwashing at best, or downright destructive in the worst instances.
UK science bodies could lead the worldBritain is home to the world’s best bioscience and environmental science researchers. Applied science institutes (eg ZSL, John Innes and Quadram) and universities with strong applied science departments and the data banks they manage (eg Millenium Seed Bank, managed by Kew Science) have many of the world’s scientific leaders who can help solve climate change and biodiversity loss. These institutes have the commercial solutions of tomorrow, from climate change resilient food crops to zero carbon fertiliser, alternatives to palm oil, advanced biofuels and natural pesticides. They have the potential to be incredibly successful and internationally significant.
While there is a strong motivation to find solutions, we also need to know that those we back will work, and that they are not further decreasing the resilience of ecosystems and food systems and, importantly, that they are not leading to unforeseen negative consequences.
That’s why, via the Gaia Sciences Innovation Partnership, we have sought out applied science partners, like Kew Gardens, ZSL and the University of York, that share our values and vision, and have a deep and respected science base.
Investing in nature makes financial senseEvery $1 spent on ecosystem restoration is estimated to give a return of around $30 in economic benefits. You don’t need to be a fund manager to see the commercial potential of a more sustainable planet. For practical and scalable solutions, the huge investment needed will have to come from both the public and private sectors.
While there is a lot to worry about, there is also excitement about the potential of the UK’s bioscience capability to, quite literally, save the world. Investing in these ideas is a true investment in the future.
Greensphere Capital LLP has launched a £150 million venture fund to invest in solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss through its Gaia Sciences Innovation Partnership.
This post is by Divya Seshamani, founding partner at Greensphere Capital LLP.