Finance for nature and the climate key to holistic environment protection: COP23 BIOFIN event

Dash Chencu
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By James Maiden

Taking and integrated approach to how countries financially manage initiatives that preserve biodiversity and mitigate and adapt to climate change is crucial, experts say at the side event held by BIOFIN at the COP 23 in Bonn last week. 

Raising finance and better managing existing finances towards climate action is a major stream at this year’s COP and countries such as Fiji and Bhutan are pushing for an integrated approach with conservation finance. 

It's imperative to find the most efficient, cost-effective pathways to achieve simultaneously our climate and biodiversity goals, the experts said.

"Bhutan has always considered sustainable development and environment conservation as the centrepiece of the countries development strategy," said Rinchen Wandgi, Director of the Gross National Happiness Commission in Bhutan, in his speech during the session. 

"Through BIOFIN we are assisting financing needs and identifying the finance gap for Bhutan's NBSAP, poverty reduction strategies and the NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions for emission reductions), identifying potential sources of funding development for a finance plan that can identify, assess, and prioritise a wide range of financing tools, mechanisms and strategies and a clear-cut institutional framework for implementation," he said.

Like Bhutan, Fiji is another small country with rich biodiversity, crucial for the country's economies but heavily vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 

Permanent Secretary for the Environment in Fiji, Joshua Wycliffe said in his opening remarks that biodiversity and ecosystems are affected by climate change, but the vice versa is also the case. 

"Fiji is surrounded by water and a key example is the mangroves that as we know are effective carbon sinks and protect the coasts and provide important marine habitats. We've come down to zero tolerance on mangroves with tourism development. But it costs money," he said.

"Some financial mechanisms have had a positive impact on biodiversity, ecosystems and climate change in Fiji. An example is we have looked at Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) and typically we charge a percentage on every tourist coming into the country and this goes into an enviro-fund that helps us implement conservation projects," he said.

Jamison Ervin, from UNDP framed the panel discussion during the session, stating that according to most climate scientists, we have approximately three years to avoid the worst of runaway climate change and we are facing the 6th mass extinction of species at the same time. 

"The urgency is imperative. We have lost more than 50% of the populations of more than 3000 plant and animal species on earth," she said. 

"Addressing the disconnect with the reality in the world of finance is key. Only 2% of climate finance is targeted at nature based solutions." 

One of the sources of finance for biodiversity and climate change initiatives, including one of the BIOFIN donors is the German Government's International Climate Initiative (IKI).

"Biodiversity conservation is a recognised strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation. IKI biodiversity projects are designed to contribute to climate change adaptation and or mitigation," said Björn Ingendahl, Deputy Head of Division for International Cooperation on Biodiversity within the IKI.

"Since 2008 the IKI has accepted over 500 projects with a total funding volume of over 2.3 billion euros," he said in his opening remarks during the session. 

Generating finance through integrated climate and biodiversity driven finance solutions is important but under this approach – also bringing the Ministries of Finance into the planning – greatly enhances the coordination between sectors.

"Enhancing coordination between governments sectors which is key and in the process we learn from each other and we educate," said Dasho Chencho Norbu, Secretary of National Environment Commission, Royal Government of Bhutan. 

"When we talk of the three Rio conventions (UNFCCC, CBD, UNCCD), our targets at the end of the day, are the communities and our interventions are at the local landscape," he said.

"In the process of bringing these together in an integrated way, we are looking ahead as a team and seeing how we can work together at the landscape, so that we save money, share the resources and be more efficient."