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Far more finance needed for nature-rich nations to make global deal fly

by Michael Taylor | @MickSTaylor | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 17 September 2021 01:00 GMT

A couple wearing protective face masks takes a selfie amid a cosmos flower field at a park in Seoul, South Korea, September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Environmentalists say rich countries have a moral and economic responsibility to significantly increase funding as their higher consumption levels put greater stress on natural resources

* Biodiversity accord due to be agreed in China next year

* Developing nations need more funding to help meet goals

* Call for finance to go directly to indigenous, local communities

By Michael Taylor

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Ahead of a global summit to agree a new pact to protect nature that kicks off next month, environmentalists said developing nations will need more funding to implement its goals, branding the $10 billion a year now being sought "woefully inadequate".

Governments are tasked with finalising an agreement to safeguard the planet's plants, animals and ecosystems - similar to the Paris climate accord - at the two-part U.N. biodiversity summit due to conclude next May in the Chinese city of Kunming.

A draft of the biodiversity pact published in July includes a pledge to protect at least 30% of the planet's land and oceans by 2030 - but finding the funds needed to help nature-rich developing countries with conservation is a challenge.

The text calls for "redirecting, repurposing, reforming or eliminating incentives harmful for biodiversity", meaning things like subsidies for fossil fuel production or intensive farming.

It also urges an increase in investment to protect and restore nature from all sources to $200 billion annually, including an additional $10 billion in "international financial flows" for developing nations.

"It is woefully inadequate," said Brian O'Donnell, director of the U.S.-based Campaign for Nature, adding that existing funding from rich to poorer countries was about $10 billion.

Doubling that "will not be nearly enough to support the developing world in meeting global biodiversity goals", he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Improving conservation and management of natural areas, such as parks, oceans, forests and wildernesses, is seen as crucial to safeguarding the ecosystems on which humans depend and limiting global warming to internationally agreed targets.

Officials told a 2020 U.N. financing forum that $700 billion a year in extra funding would be needed from governments and business over the next decade.

A U.N. report in May said global annual spending on nature totalled about $133 billion in 2020, with public funding making up 86% and private finance the rest.

O'Donnell said developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America would need about $240 billion per year to meet their biodiversity protection goals and called for rich countries to contribute an additional $80 billion annually.

"(They) have a moral and economic responsibility to significantly increase this amount," he added, citing higher consumption levels in advanced nations which put greater stress on natural resources.


About 1 million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction due to humans' relentless pursuit of economic growth, scientists warned in a 2019 landmark report on the devastating impact of modern civilisation on the natural world.

If ecological tipping points are reached and countries fail to invest more in protecting and restoring nature, the global economy would face annual losses of $2.7 trillion by 2030, the World Bank has warned.

"The reality is that all financing, from all sources - domestic, international development assistance, private and public - will have to be massively scaled up," said Florian Titze, a biodiversity policy advisor at green group WWF-Germany.

"All financing needs to be doubled at the absolute minimum," he said, urging ambitious countries to show leadership by putting strong financing commitments on the table.

China and African nations are pushing for the establishment of a multi-billion-dollar "global biodiversity fund" to help developing countries meet the new nature pact's goals, U.N. officials and observers said last month.

But many leaders are still relying on the exploitation of natural resources to bolster their economies, battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to lift people out of poverty.

Forests are being cut down - often to produce commodities such as palm oil and beef - destroying biodiversity and threatening climate goals as trees absorb about a third of planet-warming emissions produced worldwide.

All countries should develop and implement "national biodiversity finance plans" that would help them mobilise and deploy the necessary resources to halt the harm, said Titze.

Policy reforms are also needed to ensure the new funding is not negated by spending that harms biodiversity, he added.

A U.N. report said this week that 87% of global support to agricultural producers - about $470 billion per year - distorts food prices, and has negative environmental and social effects, often favouring big business over smallholder farmers.

"Political will is critical," said Titze. "Stopping and reversing biodiversity loss is in (governments') own interests - and in the interests of society and economies."


Funding from rich countries under any new nature accord should come in the form of grants and payments for ecosystem services and not as vague "financial flows" or loans that will land developing nations further in debt, said O'Donnell.

Indigenous and local communities should also receive a substantial portion as they are critical to achieving biodiversity goals yet currently get little funding, he added.

"The frontline defenders of biodiversity and the communities inside of, and adjacent to, conservation areas should see direct benefits," he said.

The $10 billion in proposed additional funding should largely come from governments, said Lim Li Ching, a senior researcher at the Malaysia-based Third World Network, noting concerns about suggested efforts to "leverage private finance".

That is because investors tend to focus on financial returns rather than rights, biodiversity protection and equity, she noted.

A goal to harness around $1 trillion, or 1% of the global economy, to conserve and restore nature would be a good starting point for the biodiversity deal, said Fred Kumah, vice president of global affairs at the African Wildlife Foundation.

Previous plans failed largely because financing fell short, he added.

"As drivers of biodiversity loss are heavily driven by consumption and production patterns in the Global North, it is imperative that (the region) takes responsibility for its role... by stepping up its contributions," he added.

Related stories:

Giant leap for nature? All eyes on China to land new global pact

G7 brightens outlook for new nature pact but pandemic threatens deadline 

What is the COP15 biodiversity summit, and why is it so important?

(Reporting by Michael Taylor @MickSTaylor; Editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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