The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has estimated that between $150 and $440 billion dollars are needed annually to implement the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011-2020), and other authors, suggest that between $23 and $52 billion dollars are being spent per year worldwide. Moreover, the OECD suggests that there has been a worldwide decline in financing for biodiversity, whereas the amount of resources available for issues such as climate change rose by some $30 billion dollars between 2010 and 2012, with a projected $100 billion dollars becoming available by the year 2020, similar to other growing sectors. What is the importance we are giving to biodiversity?
A summary analysis might infer that the issue of biodiversity preservation is not on the list of current and future priorities. I do not, however, believe this to be the case. It is simply a reflection of the financing trends that are influenced both by public opinion and the political movements that have greater weight in the media. It may be that, as the years go by, these rends will persist, change, or become nothing more than memories. I do not mean to discredit these initiatives but I do ask myself a firm question: must we blindly follow these trends, or should be rather integrate other dimensions into sustainable development plans currently being consolidated?
In recent years, we have heard a great deal about climate change, which has generated strong media presence and social attention. This has led to an exponential increase in funding to attend to the issues of mitigation and adaptation, mainly in areas such as infrastructure and green growth. At the Climate Change Conference in Lima 2014, however, a group of scientists and policymakers made a call for, among other issues, a greater recognition of key aspects of biodiversity in the context of climate change.
Despite the fact that the empirical evidence supporting a link between these two issues is limited, currently in development and with voices opposed to it, there are studies that suggest that biological diversity can enhance efforts to reduce the negative effects of climate change. For example, preserved or restored habitats contribute to the extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus helping mitigating climate change through carbon storage. Moreover, preserving intact ecosystems, such as mangrove swamps, can help reduce the impacts of climate change induced disasters that come in the form of floods and storm surges.
One of the financial tools employed by the private sector to combat climate change is the carbon market. In spite of the main criticism that it fails to recognize other ecosystem services, initiatives such as Gold Standard do recognize the co-benefits of carbon markets for biodiversity and assisting indigenous communities. Although these markets have had an uphill climb and are still in the consolidation process, the voluntary market, in particular, provides an opportunity for the private sector to finance biodiversity preservation. Disney, for example, has invested $7 million dollars in protecting Peruvian forests.
It is true that the income generated by carbon markets alone will not be enough to attend to all of the financial needs for the conservation of natural areas. Nor can we expect them to recognize everything that we consider important. But they do represent a real and effective contribution, considering the lack of public-sector financing.
Mecanismo de Mitigación Voluntaria de GEI” MVC Colombia: Una iniciativa de Fundación Natura
In Colombia, a synergy is being developed between climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies and biodiversity preservation through the creation of a voluntary carbon market. The main thrust of this pilot initiative is to unite the domestic supply and demand of carbon credits. The supply of carbon credits (VERs) is developed through projects that establish: (i) complementary preservation strategies that strengthen biodiversity management through the establishment of biological corridors, mosaics, private reserves, etc., which support the connectivity of regional and national protected areas; and (ii) technological improvements that contribute to reducing deforestation pressures.
On the demand side, the project is strengthened through work with industries located in Bogota, although in the future it is expected to cover the whole country in an effort to strengthen carbon footprint measurement processes. Companies invest in “carbon” so as to compensate their footprint, and those resources are invested in the preservation of natural areas and all of the biodiversity contained within them, a win-win situation.
This initiative represents a practical example of how to harness current financing trends, through integrated approaches, so as to continue to contribute to key preservation issues. I believe the debate regarding the soundness of international donors’ financial priorities to be unproductive; on the contrary, what is important is to propose a strategy, from our own sphere of activity, in order to avoid slipping into momentary trends and to continue to strengthen our efforts in biodiversity preservation and the promotion of sustainable development.
This should not be understood as resistance to change; it is rather a call to seek integrated approaches that allow us to broaden our viewpoints and incorporate new dimensions into the work that we have been constructing through a long process of trial and error in recent years. Although issues of gender, youth, sustainable development and biodiversity preservation may no longer be #trendingtopics, they continue to be issues of vital importance!
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Josué Ávila is an environmental specialist with 10 years of experience in the design and management of conservation projects on Latin America and the United States. He currently works for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) providing technical support for the GEF portfolios in Colombia and Peru. Mr. Avila holds a Master’s degree in International Development and Environment from the Universidad Carlos Tercero in Madrid, Spain. He is originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras and loves crossfit, cooking, hiking, photography and travel.