By Onno van den Heuvel
BIOFIN provides countries a strong basis to understand the biodiversity finance policy environment, map expenditure and financial needs, plan for achieving biodiversity finance targets, and implement a suite of finance solutions relevant for the context within the country. At the recent annual regional workshop for Europe and the Asia-Pacific in Cebu, Philippines, around 20 countries came together to share knowledge and experiences.
As countries are now reaching the implementation stage, carrying out the activities in the Biodiversity Finance Plan on individual finance solutions, there are many lessons learned to share. The meeting comes just after the host country, the Philippines, approved new legislation on protected areas supported by BIOFIN, adding 94 areas to the system with associated finance at the level of multi-million US dollars per year to be expected. BIOFIN recently welcomed two new countries in the region, Cambodia and Nepal, who joined the initiative.
An example of impact investment from NGO, Blue Finance Demonstrated a model for the private sector to directly finance marine protected areas in the Philippines and other countries. Another example from an NGO managed and financed model is Mongolia’s Khustein Nuruu National Park, who generate over US$ 600,000 per year, being largely self-financing.
Another session looked at human-wildlife conflict, with an interesting example from Mexico on insurance for livestock loss related to jaguars that demonstrated the level of poaching actually decreased once people were assured of compensation in advance. Bhutan has a Wildlife Conflict Management Endowment Fund.
Georgia elaborated how their recently completed Biodiversity Finance Plan combines a number of interrelated finance solutions. They are working to integrated biodiversity conservation considerations into the country’s Environmental Impact Investment system, in particular related to Hydropower. Other solutions include work on protected area finance, mobilising resources for species re-introduction with a local zoo and identifying ways to attract more income from the country’s forests.
Countries explored the potential of bioprospecting and bio-commerce (developing new native species into tradable products) as finance solutions. Dr Lourdes Cruz, National Scientist and Professor Emeritus, University of the Philippines told the story of the 25-year process to develop a new type medicine for chronic pain from a poisonous cone snail led to foreign companies gaining patents for the compounds found in the snails venom. The example illustrated the high benefit for medicine many species can have, while its importance as a biodiversity finance tool has limitations, in particular in the short term.
To provide a central framework for engaging with the private sector, several countries have initiated Business and Biodiversity Working Groups. The India Business and Biodiversity Initiative unites 30 major companies to look at better ways to integrate conservation objectives in their practices.
Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam demonstrated how at an early stage they worked on results-based budgeting, aligning with ongoing government reforms. This will help to create more specific results and justifications for national biodiversity budget, to both improve the impact of existing budget allocations and help convince government to increase the budget ceiling.
Conservation Trust Funds have become a central building block in national financing strategies for biodiversity around the world. An example from Kehati, Indonesia, showed how since their founding back in 1995, they evolved into a multi-functional organisation, with multiple sub-funds and working on related financing mechanisms such as debt-for-nature swaps and crowdfunding. Their endowment, the part of the fund that is used for investments to generate income for conservation grants, stands at US$ 16.5 million, with the total volume of funds managed reaching US$ 160 Million.
Other examples of recent work on finance solutions include Kazakhstan’s pilot on biodiversity offsets, to demonstrate how companies, when it is unavoidable for them to damage nature, can compensate this by investing in conservation elsewhere, and Sri Lanka’s work on greening the finance sector in cooperation with the country’s Central Bank. The BIOFIN Team in Fiji has helped to develop a results-based framework for the national biodiversity plan, making it easier for the public and private sector to contribute to its objectives.
On the last day the countries examined how to best institutionalise all aspects of the BIOFIN process. Malaysia’s approach on this is exemplary, by having mainstreamed biodiversity finance into their national finance plan, and now taking a more comprehensive approach to mainstream biodiversity finance in all aspects of the government planning and budgeting cycle at local and state level.
Photo by Joel Forte/UNDP