Demand is high for investment in biodiversity, but finance gaps remain

thailand

Representatives from across Europe, Asia and Pacific are encouraging increased investment in nature from both the public and private sectors, with emerging data revealing that significant finance gaps remain for countries to achieve their biodiversity targets.

As the host country for the 5th Biodiversity Finance Regional Dialogue for Europe, Asia and Pacific, held this week, Thailand has vast natural resources and rich biodiversity. But the country’s economy relies heavily on nature in sectors such as tourism, food production and spa and herbal medicine.

“The value of the bio-economy stands at 3 trillion Thai baht (almost US$100 Billion) or 21% of the country’s GDP,” said Chakkrit Parapantakul, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Thailand Ministry of Finance.

“Biodiversity finance is a key element in achieving sustainable economic development. Thailand is converting to the bio-economy and circular economy and much of the economy is already bio-based,” he said.

The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) has revealed that biodiversity-related expenditure in Thailand is estimated US$330 million or 0.5% of the overall budget or 0.1% of GDP. It needs at least US$924 million to achieve its national biodiversity targets by 2021 – at least three times higher than the current expenditures.

Renaud Meyer, Resident Representative for UNDP Thailand, said countries such as Thailand have made tremendous progress in human development.

“But it also raises the level of challenge for the environment. Do we think of the consequences of our development on the environment? We need to find solutions to finance the biodiversity costs, that will preserve our way of life – but the highest cost is the cost of in-action,” he said.

In Indonesia – the largest economy in South East Asia, the government with UNDP and others have developed a Green Sukuk – an Islamic Bond, to mobilise finance for biodiversity-related projects.

“In a Sukuk or Islamic bond, interest returns to investors are prohibited. Investors gain returns through the government leasing back underlying assets sold to investors. The Green Sukuk Indonesia is the world’s first Islamic green sovereign bond,” said Dwi Irianty Hadiningdyah, Director of Islamic Financing, Directorate General of Budget Financing and Risk Management, Ministry of Finance of Indonesia.

Nearby in the Philippines, a partnership between BIOFIN, WWF and the fin-tech company, GCash is mobilising funds to protect and restore the Ipo Watershed – an important water source for the capital, Manila. Gcash mobile money users are rewarded for using the app through virtual tree planting, which is matched and funded by Gcash and will result in the planting of 365,000 trees in the restoration of the watershed.

“We didn’t have a difficult time convincing Gcash and other companies, said Anabelle Plantilla, Project Coordinator from BIOFIN Philippines. “The private sector is open in terms of listening to the science because they want their programs to have an impact,” she said.

Mabel Niala, Head External Affairs, GCash Philippines said that the use of the app and the Gcash Forest initiative was suitable for use by self-described ‘lazy environmentalists’, due to how easy it is to use and contribute to the reforestation project.

“We’ve already reached 1 million users who have used the app and earned points to plant a ‘virtual tree’ – we will then work with partners to plant the real trees in the Ipo Watershed area,” she said.