The interplay between biodiversity and sustainable development

19 Mar 2017

Lessons for Latin America and the Caribbean from regional workshop in Guatemala

Innovative ways to finance biodiversity conservation and management, including developing the sports fishing eco-tourism industry are being planned and tested in Guatemala to safeguard the countries highly diverse species and ecosystems – which play an important role in the lives and economy of Guatemala. 

Ten countries from the region and international experts from BIOFIN gathered in Antigua in late-January to discuss and plan further progress in implementation of the countries national biodiversity finance plans. See a video (in Spanish) wrapping up the workshop above.

Guatemala, which is considered a megadiverse country, is in an advanced stage of the BIOFIN process completing the full suite of assessments including reviewing its policy and institutional landscape, its biodiversity expenditures and financial needs, and has produced a comprehensive finance plan, which launched in August 2016. 

“One of the initial results is to design an action plan to understand the priorities for investments. We did not have that before, so BIOFIN has really fostered that discussion and provided a concrete action plan, including initiatives, and we will see how we can strengthen it as we advance.” said Vice Minister of Finance of Guatemala, Leonel López  at the launch of the Finance Plan.

Solutions to generate revenues include generating tariffs from the Ports Authority as well as developing a sustainable sail-fish sports fishing industry with the private sector – with the potential of raising significant finance to be used for biodiversity conservation. 

“The potential for private sector, in terms of tourism, infrastructure, real estate and development, is huge if we consider the other fishing destinations around the globe," said Niels Erichsen, a Representative of the Guatemala Commission for the Protection of Sailfish and the Central American Recreational Fishing Community, at a BIOFIN workshop in August 2016." 

"For Guatemala this could represent an increase of up to a 25 percent of total income from tourism, if we adequately develop the infrastructure required for recreational fishing activities.”

But in addition to generating new revenue, realigning current expenditure is paramount and the government, with BIOFIN's support, and through the UNDP/MARN/CONAP/GEF financed project “Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in coastal and marine protected Areas”,  has identified and is analysing options to better deliver tariffs raised through the Land Agency of Guatemala (OCRET) for use of protected area land that should be transferred to CONAP for the management and conservation of these areas.

Vital learning for the region

BIOFIN is implemented in 10 countries in the region and representatives of Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Belize, Chile and Cuba, Brazil and Costa Rica are learning from each other’s experiences in implementing the BIOFIN process.

"The BIOFIN initiative allows us to understand the importance of financing for biodiversity is conceived in development strategies. This means biodiversity is seen within within development. There can't be development without taking into account biodiversity in countries," said Gloria Gómez Paiz, a representative of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment in Cuba.

While Cuba is in the early stages of the BIOFIN process, other more advanced countries such as Mexico are offering key insights into the boundaries between climate change, biodiversity, development and poverty and the need for policy institutions to integrate these issues and work together more closely. 

"We see this in how we make public policy in each of our institutions, but the truth is that the planet does not have these set boundaries," said Fernanda Montero, an adviser for BIOFIN Mexico.

"We have biodiversity in the forests so when you build roads there should be wildfire crossings to avoid habitat fragmentation. When we have large infrastructure works, populations are displaced, so we have to be very strategic, with how we begin to erase the boundaries found in development," she said. 

"Although there have been very important advances, it is necessary to have a paradigm shift to achieve sustainable development."

BIOFIN brings 30 countries together to develop and implement evidence based finance plans to safeguard biodiversity. BIOFIN uses an innovative and adaptable methodology (the BIOFIN Workbook) to guide countries through analysing the policy and institutional context for biodiversity finance, measure the current biodiversity expenditure, assess future needs and identify the most suitable finance solutions to achieve national biodiversity targets.

BIOFIN provides guidance on how to prioritise a mix of suitable biodiversity finance solutions for its countries. Finance solutions provide impact in countries through generating new revenue for biodiversity, re-orientating and or realigning existing financing, avoiding future expenditures, and delivering better.