The Netherlands causes 40 billion euros worth of damage to biodiversity through water and air pollution, land use and climate change. More than half of the damage is done abroad.

    This is the conclusion of a study by ABN Amro into the costs of the disappearance of biodiversity. A healthier and diverse nature provides society with so-called ecosystem services. This includes food, medicinal ingredients and carbon storage. But also for filtering air and water and recreational services.

    Less biodiversity can also lead to the disappearance of insects needed to pollinate plants, leading to a further decrease in biodiversity. There is a value to those services. In this way, the damage of the loss of biodiversity can be calculated. The 40 billion euros in damage amounts to 2300 euros per inhabitant.

    Hood rainforest

    Most of the costs are incurred abroad. This concerns, for example, the clearing of rainforest to grow fodder for Dutch livestock, or the construction of palm oil plantations. But also water pollution from the production of beef in Argentina. This means that the Dutch agriculture and food industry is responsible for almost a quarter of all damage.

    They are not the only major polluters. The industry is also making a big contribution. But sectors such as business services and IT are also causing declining biodiversity. This is because, for example, they use a lot of energy and rare metals are used in the equipment. The mining of these rare metals leads to a decrease in biodiversity earlier in the chain.

    Consumers

    It is not only the producers who contribute to reduced biodiversity. Consumers who ignore the more expensive, sustainably produced food also contribute to reduced biodiversity.

    The bank sees various options for tackling the problem. For example, the actual costs must be settled in the products. This is not happening now, one of the reasons why environmentally polluting products are cheaper than sustainable ones. By including the environmental costs in the products, the buyer pays for that damage.

    Action

    But it all starts with knowledge. It must be clear what the impact on biodiversity is of, for example, soy from Brazil or artificial fertilizer from Belarus. Agreements can then be made with the producer to reduce the negative influence. This willingness will certainly be greater if there is a financial benefit in return.

    The bank also advises starting with small, concrete steps. They provide direct benefits and that motivates. But just as important is that governments will force companies to take immediate action.

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