Coal and cattle worst environmental offenders, says new report

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Coal-fired power generation in Asia and cattle ranching in South America are the most damaging businesses for nature with hidden costs that exceed the value of their production, says a new report.

Global output of basic goods from cement to wheat caused damage totalling $7.3 trillion a year if pollution, water, greenhouse gases and waste were priced in, the report says.

The study was conducted by a business coalition for The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, whose backers include the UN, World Bank, businesses and conservation groups.

“The numbers in this report underline the urgency but also the opportunities for all economies in transitioning to a green economy,” said Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Program.

Coal-fired power generation in Asia, led by China, generates revenues of $443 billion a year but causes $452 billion in damage to nature, largely because greenhouse gases cause climate change and pollution harms people’s health, says the report.

It also estimated that cattle ranching in South America, especially in cleared parts of the Amazon forest, ranked second with damage estimated at $353 billion, which far exceeded revenues of $16.6 billion.

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