According to the UN, there are strong financial incentives for ensuring a healthy natural world and protecting and restoring everything from forests to freshwaters, mangrove swamps to wetlands.

Doing so, it says, will create jobs, combat poverty and lead to multi-million dollar returns.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The ecological infrastructure of the planet is generating services to humanity worth by some estimates over $70 trillion a year, perhaps substantially more.

“In the past these services have been invisible or near invisible in national and international accounts. This should and must change.

While the world’s media was focused on the environment, the UN used the opportunity to launch a report, Dead Planet, Living Planet: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development, that says protecting nature is not a financial burden that we cannot afford, but rather an opportunity to be embraced.

“This report is aimed at bringing two fundamental messages to governments, communities and citizens on World Environment Day and in 2010–the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity,” said Mr Steiner.

“Namely that mismanagement of natural and nature-based assets is under cutting development on a scale that dwarfs the recent economic crisis.

“Two: that well-planned investments and re-investments in the restoration of these vast, natural and nature-based utilities not only has a high rate of return.

“It will be central, if not fundamental, to sustainability in a world of rising aspirations, populations, incomes and demands on the Earth’s natural resources.”

The report gives many examples from around the world of schemes that have seen cash benefits go hand in hand with environmental improvements.

It claims that that compared to losses associated with degraded of ecosystem services, well-planned restorations may provide cost benefit ratios of 3 75 in terms of return on investment.

Sam Bond

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