Step 4.2C: Attribution of biodiversity expenditures

Once expenditures are classified according to these categories, the amount that contributes to sustainable biodiversity management needs to be determined. For detailed expenditure data, specific activities or project/programme components can be counted as either biodiversity or non-biodiversity expenditures. This analysis requires 1) detailed expenditure data and 2) substantial time allocation for the review. When the latter is not possible, alternative approaches are available.

First, attribution approaches require the classification of “primary” and “secondary” expenditures, and then the determination of what percentage of certain expenditures should be attributed to biodiversity. Primary expenditures should be counted at 100 percent (similarly to OECD Rio Markers and SEEA). However, since even primary expenditures where biodiversity is the main intent may include nonbiodiversity spending, they may be attributed a value lower than 100 percent. Expenditures are considered “primary” on the basis of the “predominance principle” (they are predominantly for biodiversity). In the absence of mitigating information, a 100 percent value should be attributed to primary biodiversity expenditures.

In contrast and despite an increasing number of experiences recorded by BIOFIN and others, there is no international agreement on the attribution of a percentage value to secondary biodiversity expenditures. Indeed, even direct expenditures are best estimates of 100 percent intentionality. The BER should seek to attribute expenditures as accurately as possible using well-defined and transparent attribution criteria and processes. There are two potential approaches for the attribution of expenditures:

  • A programme approach, focusing on the detailed expenditures of programmes, and
  • An agency approach, focusing on the organizations (or “agents”) making the expenditures.

The programme approach is regarded as best practice, as it assures that budget and expenditure data are associated with specific programmes, activities, targets, and indicators. The agency-based approach cannot adequately capture either annual changes or fine details of attribution. Depending on the availability of data and the willingness of specific agencies to allow access to programmatic data, countries may use a mix of both the programme and agency approaches. Both approaches are described in more detail below.

The process of attribution is illustrated in Figures 4.4 and 4.5. Figure 4.4 identifies primary and secondary expenditures. Since most public and private expenditures will not be targeted to biodiversity, we should focus on those budgets and organizations that have been prioritized in the PIR.

Figure 4.4: Identification of Biodiversity Expenditure Within Overall Budget (Percent of Total Expenditures)

In Figure 4.5, the attribution of secondary expenditures is used to reduce the total spent on secondary actions or programmes to the amount spent on intentional biodiversity goals. Since biodiversity is not the primary objective of “secondary” expenditures, the amount of the expenditure (percent) that is intentionally and explicitly being spent on biodiversity positive goals is the result of the attribution exercise. It is important to differentiate between intent and impact. An action intended to boost agricultural production could have very positive impacts on biodiversity, but if the primary intent of the project or activity is agricultural production (or food security, etc.), the attribution remains only to the amount that was intentionally targeted at biodiversity positive outcomes. Furthermore, the “intent” must be documented (written down in policies/ budgets). This approach produces a rough estimate of the amount of money allocated intentionally to biodiversity.

Figure 4.5: Attribution of Direct and Indirect Biodiversity Expenditures

Note that the scale varies between the columns, the first column is in percentages of the national budget; the second and third columns are the percentages of the section of the national budget that supports biodiversity.

The Programme Approach

The aim is to establish a process that can be repeated periodically and produce replicable and consistent results. The system should be accurate, precise, repeatable, and defensible:

  • To ensure consistency, written “intent” must be documented, in line with OECD explicit tagging and SEEA’s causa finalis (or “end purpose”).
  • To work at the most detailed level of data as possible in the most cost-effective way. This applies to the smallest unit of the organization for which there are budget data or the smallest programme budgets and expenditure data that exist (see Box 4.5).
  • To estimate percentage attributions only when detailed data are not available or analysis at such detail would be unaffordable
  • When using estimated attribution, to have a pre-established system with predetermined categories and coefficients.

The attribution system weights expenditures by an estimate of the percentage of money spent (or budgeted) that was targeted to specific biodiversity categories. The range of attribution levels can be from 0 to 100 percent with suggested milestones at 0, 1, 5, 25, 50, 75, and 100 percent and a range of +/- 15 percent for each (see the attribution table example).

Table 4.2: Standard Attribution Table Example

Attribution Level Median Attribution Range Example Expenditures
Primary 100% None Protected area management, coral restoration, anti-poaching efforts, removal of alien invasive species (AIS). etc.
High 75% +/- 15 Biodiversity-related education, private conservation measures, PES schemes
Medium 50% +/- 15 Organic agriculture support, watershed management
Medium Low 25% +/- 15 Sustainable wetland use, sustainable fisheries, ecosystem-based adaptation
Low 5% +/- 5 Improved irrigation systems, reduction of fertilizer use, sustainable forestry
Marginal 1% +/- 1 Pollution control
Insignificant 0   Energy sector climate mitigation

The Agency Approach

When programmatic data is not available, the “agency” approach can be used. Each agency (organization, branch, division, etc.) is evaluated for its intended financial contribution to biodiversity. It is essential to attribute the percentage to the finest level of organization for which data are available, such as branch, division, local technical agency, etc. The finer the level of analysis, the more likely a 100 percent attribution can be adopted. Avoid attributing the percentage at the ministry level. The same attribution score should be used for all years of the assessment, unless there were significant changes to the organization. There are three ways to attribute expenditures:


Review the organization’s written or legal mandate.

Reviewing an organization’s mandate, mission statements, and annual reports helps to assign biodiversity attribution rates. Where an organization has multiple (including non-biodiversity) mandates, an estimate of the relative budget importance of the different mandates should be made. Where multiple categories are covered under an agency’s mandate, it is desirable to highlight these (i.e. a forestry department that supports sustainable use and manages protected areas).


Conduct interviews with lead staff such as directors or managers

In managerial interviews it is valuable to begin with a briefing on what biodiversity expenditures are, including the BIOFIN categories. This establishes a shared understanding of “biodiversity expenditure” before asking the interviewee to estimate the amount of their organization’s annual budget that is attributable to specific biodiversity categories or national targets. This can be a one-off discussion or a regular activity.


Conduct a comprehensive survey of employees

Questionnaires can be effective in determining attribution for certain organizations. The questionnaire should include a clear definition and explanation of biodiversity expenditures. Questions may be formulated to collect evidence on how much time employees spend in an average week on specific biodiversity work (categories); or more directly on the percentage of annual budgets that can be attributed to BIOFIN categories. In addition, a focus group discussion or survey can help to disaggregate the agency budget into personnel, operating expenditures, and capital investment. In the absence of a survey, small consultations or workshops can discuss questions and provide percent attribution results based on participants’ judgement.

Box 4.5: Example of Attribution Results from a Questionnaire Approach – the Philippines


With the knowledge that personnel expenditures comprise a significant percentage of public sector spending, BIOFIN Philippines devised a simple questionnaire to assess the share of time that can be acceptably assigned as “biodiversity-related” in each agency surveyed. The table below shows the BER analysis derived using agency data obtained through the personnel survey.

Total average appropriations of the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) agencies from 2008-2013 and estimates of biodiversity spending

Agencies of the DENR Total appropriations, 2008-2013 in million Philippine pesos Total biodiversity-relevant appropriations, 2008-2013 in million Philippine pesos Biodiversity-relevant as percent of total
MB 5,396 4,187 78
FMB 45,276 10,665 24
ERDB 5,414 2,445 45
LMB 17,141 751 4
EMB 6,947 1,188 17
MGB 15,119 114 1
NAMRIA 383 3 1
PCSD 577 347 60
NWRB 516 19 4
TOTAL 96,768 19,720 20

BMB – Biodiversity Management Bureau

FMB – Forestry Management Bureau

ERDB – Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau

LMB – Land Management Bureau

EMB – Environmental Management Bureau

MGB – Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau

NAMRIA – the National Mapping, and Resource Information Agency

PCSD – Palawan Council for Sustainable Development

NWRB – National Water Resources Board

Box 4.5 shows how the Philippines used detailed surveys to derive expenditure attribution. Kazakhstan used a programme approach (Box 4.6) with attribution percentages from 0 to 100 percent based on biodiversity actions.

Four BIOFIN countries (Kazakhstan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand) whose BER reports provided a clear methodology on biodiversity attribution were reviewed and summarized. Using a mixture of agency and programme approaches, Annex III presents the various expenditure categories and biodiversity attribution rates. All expenditure categories are organized according to the three main CBD goals: conservation, sustainable use, and ABS; and classified using a standard range: High (90 percent to 100 percent), Medium High (50 percent to 89 percent), Medium Low (11 percent to 49 percent), and Low (10 percent and lower). The summary information shows how countries have applied the biodiversity attribution percentages, and characterizes the types of expenditures assigned the full range of expenditure rating from 0 percent to 100 percent.

Box 4.6: Example of Biodiversity Expenditure Analysis - Kazakhstan


Kazakhstan assessed its biodiversity expenditures from 2008 to 2014. The attribution of expenditures in Kazakhstan to biodiversity conservation is estimated by experts according to the “impact” that a project has on biodiversity and the Aichi objectives of the CBD. This is captured by an attribution score of 0 percent to 100 percent , with 100 percent reflecting activities which have a “direct” influence on biodiversity conservation, 90 percent to 5 percent reflecting activities with an increasingly “indirect” influence on biodiversity and 0 percent meaning no impact on biodiversity. The table below shows this approach and provides examples of categories.

Examples of Kazakhstan’s attribution of expenditures by programme of activity

Biodiversity Relevance % Influence on Biodiversity Example
100% Improve natural resource planning, monitoring and/or conservation
90% Targeting subsidies towards biodiversity conservation
50% Supporting ecological stability e.g. connectivity of habitats
30% Targeting subsidies towards primary sector output
10% Improving a region’s built infrastructure
5% Increasing water availability
0% No impact on biodiversity

There is a distinction between the public and private sector in the attribution of expenditures. Public sector attribution is directly aligned with policy and public benefits and as such has higher attribution rates than the private sector in most categories (see table 4.3).

Table 4.3: Public and Private Differences in Attribution

BIOFIN Categoriesz Public versus Private
Biodiversity awareness and knowledge Equivalent
Green economy Public is regulatory-focused - medium or low, private mixed objectives also medium or low
Pollution management Usually focused on people; public higher than private
Sustainable use Public higher than private
Biosafety Equivalent
Protected areas and other conservation measures Equivalent
Restoration Public higher than private
Access and benefit sharing (ABS) Public mostly primary while private secondary
Biodiversity and development planning and finance Equivalent

Expenditures also can be tagged to the 20 Aichi Targets. In doing this, care must be taken to avoid attributing primary biodiversity scores to Aichi Targets such as pollution, agriculture, etc. that are secondary by their common application. Unpacking Aichi Targets into specific actions can improve the resolution and provides for a better understanding of the biodiversity intent.