With many local rangers and communities already being the last stand against mounting threats, the world’s biodiversity is now facing new challenges. As many governments will rush back to solving the economic crisis, we must push for sustainability and preservation in these plans. Governments should keep their investments in biodiversity conservation as much as possible at the same level, but this is only a short-term solution.
There has been much discussion on what is “green”. Many people have almost forgotten that the most green investment is in the nature surrounding us, the forests that absorb carbon, hold water and create fresh air, the corals that protect us from flooding, and the wildlife that is the cornerstone of the rural economy in most developing countries.
Since 2013, UNDP’s Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) has brought countries together to work on the best financing options for our natural world. Our goal is to help countries recognize the importance of biodiversity protection, and leverage money and economic systems to support that goal. In Georgia, we helped generate more public sector funding for biodiversity investments, increasing the available budget from US$30,000 to US$270,000. In Kazakhstan, our technical assistance helps set up a system to raise funding to compensate for losses of nature. In the Philippines, a new budget proposal exceeding US$40 million for protected areas was adopted last year, and in Guatemala, five municipalities increased their budgets for marine protection by 50 percent.
This financing makes it possible for protected areas to develop management plans and budgets and assess the most important species that should be protected. This will help them to attract tourists and create business plans to generate their own funding.
In the post-COVID era, mobilising budgets for biodiversity will be harder than ever before. We expect an overall lack in available budgets due to reduced tax incomes from the economic downturn, and development assistance and private investments are also likely to decrease due to the overall attention on covid response
BIOFIN is stepping up its support for biodiversity budgeting, helping countries to explain why these investments are critical to prevent other unexpected disasters. We also help local communities raise needed resources through crowdfunding campaigns, in cooperation with UNDP’s AltFinLab, like a Georgian zoo to cover operational costs and rangers on a Philippines island, where the last population of a wild buffalo resides, to earn supplementary income. We will guide governments to identify biodiversity investment areas in their recovery programmes, for example by investing in sustainable forestry and agriculture, and into better management of national parks.
These processes are part of a broader change in mindset we all need to make. We need to integrate ecological thinking in everything we do. We need to keep in mind we are part of a human system, but this system is still embedded into a larger natural ecosystem, which impacts us, and which we impact in return. Financing is one area where we can seek to increase positive impacts, and decrease negative impacts on nature, but we need to consider it in everything we do. World Biodiversity Day is a good moment of reflection for this.