Belize is big on biodiversity and big on ambition for biodiversity finance

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The Government of Belize launched Phase II of BIOFIN in mid-October, as the program moves into the important stage of implementing finance solutions in the small Caribbean nation. Belize’s economy and population rely heavily on nature and significant parts of the GDP are derived from sectors such as tourism, agriculture, fisheries and forestry. It also possesses fragile ecosystems such as large intact tracts of forest and richly diverse coral reefs.

The BIOFIN Phase II Country Implementation Strategy was launched at the event and aims to provide direction for implementing identified finance solutions contained within the Biodiversity Finance Plan and achieve the national vision for biodiversity within the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP).

“The Government and people of Belize have long recognized the importance of Belize’s natural resources as the foundation “brick and mortar” of Belize’s development,” said Minister of the Environment Dr. Omar Figueroa at the event.

"The success of phase two implementation is hinged on our ability to foster mutually beneficial arrangements between the private and public sectors, and our ability to truly, sustainably maximize the potential of our resources,” he said.

BIOFIN began in Belize in 2016, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, the Environment, Sustainable Development and Immigration. The first phase saw the completion of the four BIOFIN assessments; the Policy and Institutional Review, the Biodiversity Expenditure Review, the Financial Needs Assessment and the Development of the Belize Biodiversity Finance Plan.

It was found that Belize spent $BZ302 million (US$150 million) (over a 5-year span) on biodiversity-related activities with an estimated need of BZ$70.3 million (US$ 35 million) to implement Belize’s NBSAP (over a ten-year period).

It was also estimated that fully achieving Belize’s NBSAP would result in 51% compliance with Global Aichi Targets. Therefore it was estimated that fully achieving the Global Aichi targets would cost BZ$138.5MN (US$ 68.5 million). However, further investigation revealed that much of the expenditure recorded during that period related to biodiversity was not aligned with NBSAP targets and priorities.

Several finance solutions have been identified and are underway or planned for implementation to bridge this finance gap for biodiversity in Belize.

An example is the scaling up of the country's Environmental Funds (EF). The EF’s financial resources are mainly obtained from donors which may include, national and international NGOs, private foundations and other bilateral donors and multilateral donors.

As the main financial vehicle for protected areas; the Protected Areas Conservation Trust receives funding from conservation fees paid by overnight visitors, a commission from cruise ship passenger taxes and/or allocated portion of Debt for Nature Swap-financing.

BIOFIN is working a finance solution that suggests optimization strategies including legal, institutional and governance practice standards of EFs in Belize.

Some recommendations include; Alignment of Strategic Plans with NBSAP Targets, procurement of funding from potential resource partners with mutual targets to national NBSAP, development of Resource Mobilization Strategies and Action Plan (RMSP) in-line with EF’s Strategic Plan, consideration to the role of asset management in resource mobilization when developing the RMSP and national funds should have written investment policy statement that clearly defines the EFs investment goals, risk appetite and ethical considerations for investing.

Additionally, BIOFIN is piloting the development of a biodiversity investment tracking tool to measure public and private biodiversity expenditure and impact on national targets. This tool was developed for the government of Belize and partners to track investments in biodiversity and environmental management via key performance indicators aligned with defined national environmental and socio-economic priorities.

It provides Belize with an opportunity to improve the way in which management assesses the impacts of investments, and in so doing, contributes to an improvement in evidence-based delivery, efficiency and effectiveness in the long-term.

Other finance solutions planned include Debt for Nature Swaps, Tax subsidies to financial institutions engaged in green debt-financing, crowdfunding and pooling donation revenues from willing parties and individuals for the financing protected areas, biodiversity offsets and carbon market development among others.

At the event key sector representatives were present. These included representatives from private and public sectors such as agriculture, tourism, fisheries, forestry and the Belize Development Foundation.

A participant from the Sugar Industry highlighted the need to align their environmental plan with the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action plan. This was also expressed by a representative of the Belize Pesticide Control Board who stressed the need to synergize and coordinate activities that are beneficial for biodiversity conservation In Belize.

It is envisioned that BIOFIN in Belize will add great value by facilitating the process of providing decision-makers in environmental management, finance and planning with economic information about the value and trade-offs among different policies and investment choices, including evaluating how valuable ecosystem services may be affected by changes in ecosystems and how they can provide increased revenue to the Belizean economy.

Photo by Jennifer Stahn, Caye Caulker, Belize https://flic.kr/p/RGYoVD