16 Mar 2023 4 min read

Our planet is approaching the point of no return. We must act.

By Alexander Burr

Global commitments to protect nature, biodiversity and water systems must now be translated into national action. We all have a role to play in achieving this vital goal.

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The natural world is in crisis.

Our unsustainable use of natural resources, such as land, water and energy, is destroying habitats and ecosystems. Global wildlife populations have dropped by 69% since 1970,1 and 40% of the world’s plants are now threatened with extinction.2

Recent research confirms we are losing species faster than ever before, plastic pollution in our oceans could triple by 2040, deforestation continues to rise rapidly, and by 2025 two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages.3

If we do not reverse nature loss we will pass a tipping point from which we cannot recover.4 We are destroying our most precious resource and entering what experts are saying will be Earth’s sixth mass extinction.5

A status quo incompatible with life

The catastrophic risks posed by nature loss can feel overwhelming, but we must act. Our current economic, policy and regulatory systems are at odds with nature, and as such with our existence.

Economically, there has been little appreciation that more than half of the world’s GDP – $44 trillion of economic value generation6 – is dependent on nature and ecosystem services.

We must rapidly transform our relationships with nature, including how we value it. It must be at the core of decision-making.

The UN has spoken

This is precisely why the commitments agreed at the COP15 United Nations (UN) biodiversity conference last year are so vital.

Specifically, the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) will govern how we collectively – across the public and private sectors – transition our economies to protect and restore ecosystems and achieve the goal of ‘living in harmony with nature’ by 2050.

The GBF includes hard-won commitments on strengthening private-sector investment in nature, aligning public and private financial flows, agreeing economy-wide policy and regulation, and strengthening how businesses manage and disclosure nature-related impacts and dependencies (Target 15 of the GBF).

To implement this final point, mandatory reporting against the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) and the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) will be instrumental.

Translating international commitments into national strategy

How the GBF is translated into coordinated national action will be key. The UK, for example, has launched its Environmental Improvement Plan, but as recently highlighted, the EU Retained Law Bill could leave the UK’s regulatory framework at odds with GBF commitments.

Cross-departmental action will be tested later this month when the UK releases the updated Green Finance Strategy. We call on the government to robustly integrate the protection and restoration of nature alongside action to accelerate the transition to net zero.  

Specifics we will be looking for include the integration of nature into mandatory corporate transition plans and a firm commitment on a timeline for implementing sustainability disclosures for UK corporates that includes ISSB and TNFD.

Individual responsibility

‘Tangibility’ is another important aspect of how we can accelerate behaviour change to help stop the destruction of nature and strengthen its recovery. Essentially, this means what you and I can do on an individual basis, and what the public can do to encourage policymakers and corporates to put nature at the core of their agenda.

For example, the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries globally. I was therefore very pleased to see the National Trust, WWF and the RSPB come together this week to launch their ‘Save Our Wild Isles’ campaign, alongside the release of Sir David Attenborough’s unmissable ‘Wild Isle’ series (the ‘causes’ of nature loss episode can only be accessed online).  

Water in focus

This month we’ll see the first UN water conference since 1977.

Protecting the global water system is a fundamental part of living in harmony with nature. Sadly, our freshwater ecosystems, wetlands, rivers, mangroves and aquifers are in crisis. It is an issue of global significance and for the first time in our history, the UN has announced that we have breached planetary boundaries on water.7 By the end of this decade, demand for fresh water will outstrip supply by 40%.

Globally, we need to rethink our approach to managing water quantity, quality, and the interrelated and self-reinforcing risks such as climate change and health.

We all share the responsibility to move to a more water-secure world, and last year I proposed four key ways in which we can do this. In addition, LGIM is actively supporting CDP’s8 letter to governments on water security.

The upcoming water conference will hopefully reinforce high-level political commitment to accelerate much-needed global action on water, and help deliver progress in achieving the vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050.


1. https://livingplanet.panda.org/en-GB/#:~:text=Wildlife%20populations%20plummet%20by%2069%25&text=This%20flagship%20WWF%20publication%20reveals,Why%20are%20we%20losing%20nature%3F

2. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2020/september/two-in-five-plants-are-threatened-with-extinction.html

3. https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity

4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/feb/24/ecosystem-collapse-wildlife-losses-permian-triassic-mass-extinction-study

5. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/what-is-mass-extinction-and-are-we-facing-a-sixth-one.html

6. Nature Risk Rising: Why the Crisis Engulfing Nature Matters for Business and the Economy. WEF - https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Nature_Economy_Report_2020.pdf 

7. https://www.un.org/pga/77/2023/02/07/press-release-first-science-briefing-to-general-assembly-focuses-on-economics-of-water/

8. CDP was originally known as the Carbon Disclosure Project. Website: https://www.cdp.net/en?id=18 

Alexander Burr

ESG Policy Lead

Alexander joined in 2019 and leads LGIM's ESG policy engagement across markets. Prior to this, he helped establish an impact fund that uses blended finance to invest in emerging markets. Before that, Alexander negotiated blended finance investments at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to support sustainable economic growth across Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and North Africa. He has held roles advising governments on alternative finance and established a nuclear safeguards organisation. Alexander holds a BSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Southampton, and further education at LSE, ICSA, CISL, and Birkbeck.

Alexander Burr