Biodiversity loss is a global risk - but not risky enough


In ten years, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse will pose one of the greatest risks to the economy, natural resources and people, concludes the World Economic Forum in its annual Global Risks Report 2024. But in a two-year perspective, it is barely in the top 20, which means that efforts may not be prioritised, says one of COWI's experts in the area.

In the short-term perspective of the next two years, biodiversity loss barely makes it into the top 20 risks discussed in the report and is surpassed by threats such as inflation, fake news and cyber threats. We have to look a decade ahead to see it featured in the top three.

According to Mette Dalsgaard, Business Development Director at COWI and experienced economist, this gap between the short-term and long-term risk perspectives might cause a lack of prioritising biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.

"Decision-makers in both the private sector and the political system, understandably, have their eyes on the potential crises lurking around the corner rather than those that are likely to hit only in the next electoral term. But it may be too late then. We must prepare for the biodiversity crisis now, not in ten years."

Why is it so important?

"Biodiversity contributes to a range of services with value for humanity, now and in the future. And it is not a quick fix. It takes time to build an ecosystem. If you are not aware of biodiversity when building a bridge, for instance, you may irrevocably harm nature, and then there is nothing to do about it."

The need for a biodiversity law

Therefore, according to Mette Dalsgaard, politicians and businesses alike must act now.

"We need national binding and measurable goals while also committing to develop an ongoing long-term biodiversity plan. The EU Commission set a framework with a biodiversity strategy aimed at protecting 30% of the EU's land and sea territory by 2030. But to succeed, we need a common unit, a consistent approach to valuing biodiversity. The best tool is to impose taxes or subsidies on the consumption that one wants to influence. In this way, the market can find the best solutions through economic incentives. Regulation is another effective tool. It has already been decided that biodiversity and ecosystems will be reporting requirements in the EU's Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). However, it is a challenge to establish common specific goals and requirements when there is no common unit of measurement for valuing biodiversity," she says.

About the Global Risks Report 2024

  • The Global Risks Report 2024 presents the findings of the Global Risks Perception Survey, which captures insights from nearly 1,500 global experts.
  • The report analyses global risks across different time frames to support decision-makers in balancing current crises and long-term priorities.
  • It explores the most severe current risks and those ranked highest by survey respondents over a two-year period.
  • It also focuses on the top risks emerging over the next decade against a backdrop of geostrategic, climate, technological and demographic shifts.
  • The respondents were surveyed in September 2023.
  • For the full report, click here. To access the summary, click here.

Source: World Economic Forum

How COWI assists customers with biodiversity

  • make biodiversity strategies for municipalities, utility companies and more.
  • advise on biodiversity in connection with sustainability certifications in the buildings industry, such as DGNB and BREEAM.
  • advise on biodiversity in connection with large energy infrastructure projects.

Get in contact

COWI employee Mette Dalsgaard

Mette Dalsgaard
Society, Economics and Environment
Associate Senior Business Development Director, Denmark

Tel: +45 56401005