|U.N. experts warn of economic cost of species loss|
BONN, Germany (Reuters) 16 May 2008 - Mankind is causing 50 billion euros ($78 billion) of damage to the planet's land areas every year, making it imperative governments act to save plants and animals, a Deutsche Bank official told a U.N. conference.
A study, presented to delegates of the U.N.'s Convention on Biological Diversity on Thursday, said recent pressure on commodity and food prices highlighted the effects of the loss of biodiversity to society.
"Urgent remedial action is essential because species loss and ecosystem degradation are inextricably linked to human well-being," said Pavan Sukhdev, a banker at Deutsche Bank and the main author of the report.
On top of the current 50 billion euros annual loss from land-based ecosystems caused by factors including pollution and deforestation, the cumulative loss could amount to at least 7 percent of annual consumption by 2050, said the report.
Germany and the EU sponsored the study and hope it will spur action to safeguard wildlife in the way Britain's Stern report sparked action to fight climate change after the economic costs were outlined, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.
Sukhdev presented only the first part of the report "The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity" to delegates from 191 countries and is about to start work on a second phase which will contain more details.
"We are still struggling to find the value of nature," Sukhdev told delegates. "This lack of valuation is, we are discovering, an underlying cause for the degradation of ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity."
Participants at the U.N. meeting are trying to agree on ways to save species which experts say are facing their biggest crisis since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Three species vanish every hour, they say.
If no action is taken, 11 percent of the earth's natural areas could be lost by 2050, mainly due to conversion for agriculture, the expansion of infrastructure and climate change, said Sukhdev's report.
The sea is another major problem, said Sukhdev who cited research showing all the world's commercial fisheries are likely to have collapsed within 50 years unless trends are reversed.
That would have a devastating impact on the 1 billion people who rely on fisheries for protein and could mean up to $80 billion to $100 billion in income loss for the sector.
The report says assigning just 1 percent of global Gross Domestic Product could achieve significant improvements in air and water quality and human health as well as ensure progress towards climate targets.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers, editing by Alister Doyle and Mary Gabriel)
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