$500bn per year needed to halt nature loss and boost biodiversity, nations and businesses told

Just 2% of the world’s terrestrial habitat which is degraded and would benefit from restoration is currently receiving such attention

In an open letter sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to coincide with the UN Biodiversity Summit, the organisations urge all member states to increase conservation funding as part of their Covid-19 stimulus packages and to ensure that money is “put into the right hands” – i.e. “local conservation organisations who see first-hand the challenges facing the natural world and have the knowledge necessary to secure real change”.

The letter calls the $500bn a “conservative estimate”, in light of recent research from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity which concluded that the figure could hit $900bn if nature loss continues to accelerate. At present, extinction rates are 100 times higher than the natural baseline due to human activity.

Of the $500bn, at least 10% should come from central governments and the private sector should play a key contributing role. The letter outlines how some $300bn could be raised by ensuring that UN member states which are currently missing their Official Development Assistance (ODA) target of allocating 0.7% of GDP to nature-related aid align with these goals. ODA targets should also be increased by 5% in the next year, the letter recommends.

The remaining $200bn could be raised by phasing out government-led subsidies for fossil fuels and re-allocating the capital to conservation projects. Subsidies accounted for the equivalent of 6.3% of global GDP in 2015 by some estimates. “Perverse incentives” which mean that a forest is worth more to businesses when cut down than left standing must also be wound down, the letter states, with governments in forest-rich nations instead adopting a natural capital approach

Governments should also do more to emphasise corporate responsibility in the finance sector, the letter concludes. It flags the recommendations made by The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Natural Capital Finance Alliance as a good starting point. In the near future, a further framework will be launched by the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures.

Flora and Fauna International (FFI) coordinated the letter to kick-start a new global campaign called ‘Our One Home’. The campaign will engage businesses and policymakers in the coming years while also educating the general public about nature loss.

“We are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation opportunity for a great reset, where governments, businesses and public alike must seize the moment to tackle head-on the conservation and extinction crisis we are facing,” FFI’s chief executive Mark Rose said. “The natural world is crucial to human and economic health but is under immense pressure and remains drastically underfunded.”

Hot topic

2020 is widely regarded as a crucial moment in the fight to avert the nature crisis, largely because of the UN Biodiversity Summit, which is taking place this week.

At the summit, world leaders representing the UK, Canada and the majority of mainland Europe have signed the UN’s Leaders Pledge for Nature – a precursor to the organisation’s ‘Paris-Agreement-style’ deal designed to avert Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

Both the pledge and the deal are headlined by a commitment to protect 30% of habitats – the former covering terrestrial habitats only and the latter set to include marine and freshwater also. While the biodiversity benefit of reaching this target is clear, researchers have also outlined how it could deliver a $500bn economic boost and accelerate job creation in the conservation sector.

Sarah George

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