Wealthy nations, excluding U.S., pledge to double funds for biodiversity

Jeremy Hance
October 22, 2012

Biodiversity-rich rainforests make way for palm oil plantations in Malaysian Borneo. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Biodiversity-rich rainforests make way for palm oil plantations in Malaysian Borneo. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Although negotiations came down to the wire, nations finally brokered a new deal at the 11th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, India; at its heart is a pledge to double resources from wealthier countries to the developing world by 2015 to conserve embattled species and ecosystems. While no numbers were put on the table, observers say a doubling of current resources would mean around $10-12 billion a year. However, this amount is still far short of what scientists and conservation groups say is necessary to stem current extinctions.

"Countries have sent a clear signal and delivered additional commitments underlining the fact that biodiversity and ecosystems are a development priority and central to a transition to an inclusive Green Economy," Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and director of the Environment Programme Executive, said in a statement.

While developed countries agreed to double funding (from a baseline of funding from 2006-2010) for biodiversity—but refused to set a definite number—developing countries also pledged to provide more resources for biodiversity protection at home. To that end, host nation, India, pledged around $50 million for its own biodiversity protection efforts. Three-quarters of developing nations are also expected to integrate biodiversity conservation into the their national agendas, while the least-developed countries were exempt.

Still, the funding agreed on fell far short of what experts say is necessary to preserve biodiversity in an age of ever-growing ecological damage. A recent study estimated that to conserve all of the world's endangered species, as categorized by the IUCN Red List, would require around $4 billion a year. In addition another $75 billion would be required annually to effectively manage and expand the world's protected areas, as proposed by the CBD goals.

"We do have concerns about what the investment levels will actually be and whether or not they will be sufficient given the scale of resources needed to protecting Earth’s biodiversity," Lina Barrera, Director of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Policy at Conservation International (CI), said in a statement. "The total required is in the order of hundreds of billions of dollars, but we estimate that, from public sources, it will require only average annual increases of US$12 billion in international aid and US$ 48 billion in domestic budgets from all countries for biodiversity between now and 2020."

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) was less optimistic. Calling the end result "disappointing," Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Conservation for WWF International, said funding was "not nearly enough money to reach the ambitious targets to protect biodiversity the world set two years ago in Nagoya."

WWF estimates that $200 billion annually would be required to meet all twenty of the CBD goals for 2020, including eliminating harmful subsidies, halving the rate of ecosystem destruction, sustainably managing fisheries, increasing protected areas, restoring 15 percent of the world's degraded ecosystems, and conserving known endangered species among others.

Notably, the United States is one of only a handful of countries (also Andorra and the Holy See) that are not member of the CBD. By not ratifying the treaty, the U.S. has only observer status at meetings.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (October 22, 2012).

Wealthy nations, excluding U.S., pledge to double funds for biodiversity.