At the Africa Nature Finance Forum, held in Kigali, Rwanda, on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, on the sidelines of the inaugural African Protected Areas Congress (APAC) 2022, government leaders and experts from across Africa called for an urgent increase in financing to protect the world’s biodiversity.
“By 2100, we may lose half of our bird and animal species, 20-30% of the productivity of African lakes and significant numbers of our plant species,” said Lee White, Minister of Water, Forests, the Sea, and Environment, Gabon.
“In this context, without strong action, we will create instability and security issues all over the African continent. One of the key elements is the mobilization of predictable and sustainable resources. This is why we need to think about innovative and sustainable finance for nature,” White added.
The natural world is disappearing at an unprecedented rate. One million plant and animal species now face extinction, many within decades, and 60% of terrestrial wildlife populations have been lost in the last 50 years. Rainforests throughout the world are being cleared at a rate of four football fields per minute.
To address this crisis, governments, Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs), environmental organisations, and businesses are working to develop a new framework to guide biodiversity conservation for the next decade, known as the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). This global agreement will be finalized at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to take place in Montreal, Canada, in December 2022. However, without sufficient financing, addressing the biodiversity crisis will not be possible, and this critical global agreement may be elusive.
“It is crucial that we lead by example,” said Mohammed H. Abdullahi, Minister of Environment, Nigeria. “Today, only 15% of the world’s land mass and 7% of the oceans are protected. So far, African nations have created over 2 million sq km of protected areas which is an indication of our joint commitment to the preservation of Africa’s rich biodiversity, but we need to do more together and protect at least 30% of the world’s land and seas by 2030.”
Hosted by the governments of Nigeria and Gabon, the Africa Nature Finance Forum discussed how Africa can build on its historical and cultural traditions of protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, support the financing of biodiversity, and leverage increased financing from donor countries around the world.
Leaders at the event called on world leaders to support, and commit to, the African proposal that all nations commit 1% of GDP to address the biodiversity finance gap and protect our planet’s future.
“The global biodiversity finance gap stands at US$700 billion: committing 1% of global GDP would generate US$850 billion. And the great thing about the 1% proposal is that this is Africa’s idea. It shows initiative and financial leadership from Africa,” said Minister Abdullahi.
“We are not begging for you to give us the money to protect our biodiversity, we are committing 1% of our GDP, you also should do the same in your countries, as well as the ODA that flows down to developing countries,” added Sikeade Egbuwalo, national focal point to the CBD for Federal Department of Forestry, Federal Ministry of Environment to the CBD, Nigeria.
Given that 70-90% of the cost of protecting or conserving at least 30% of the planet’s land and ocean by 2030 (a proposal known as 30×30) would disproportionately fall on low- and middle-income countries – the countries with the greatest wealth of remaining biodiversity, despite exploitation by high-income nations to fuel their development – the Forum underscored the need for high-income countries, development banks, philanthropists, and the private sector to dramatically increase funding support to expand and improve management of protected areas in Africa and beyond.
Dr Vanessa Ushie, Manager, Policy Analysis Division, African NaturalResources Centre (ANRC), African Development Bank (AfDB), and Co-Chair of the NC4-ADF Programme, highlighted the AfDB’s contributions to protecting biodiversity and the continent’s unique wildlife. “In 2020 for instance, the bank approvals for climate finance, attributed to adaptation and mitigation, amounted to US$1.93 billion.”
Greater financial investment must also be paired with better valuation models of ecosystem services, harmful subsidies reduction and more sustainable management of natural resources.
“All the evidence tells us that no amount of direct investment in the planet and nature is ever going to be enough if the rest of the money continues to flow in the opposite direction, so we have to work on aligning the way existing money is spent,” said Zac Goldsmith, Minister of State for the Pacific and the International Environment, United Kingdom.
“Right now, it’s estimated that for every US$1 of taxpayer money that is actively helping nature recover, we are spending at least US$4 in a way that is degrading nature, and that clearly cannot go on,” added Goldsmith.
Speakers also highlighted the critical role Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs) play in biodiversity conservation, as the best custodians of nature, and the need to ensure they are full partners in developing and implementing the entire post-2020 GBF.
“Everything we want to achieve depends on reconciling our lives and economies with the natural world around us,” added Goldsmith. “And incidentally, that is something that Indigenous Peoples all around the world have been trying to impress upon us for decades, and they’ve been largely ignored.”
“The rights of Indigenous Peoples should be protected in the Global Biodiversity Framework, including in terms of finance, and they should be at the centre of resource mobilisation,” said Egbuwalo.
Sylvie Lemmet, Ambassador for the environment at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, France, ended her remarks on a note of optimism, highlighting Africa’s ability to act to preserve its natural environment and reverse the loss of biodiversity.
“I am convinced that another development path is possible for the world and for Africa,” she said. “Many opportunities are emerging on the African continent which will be able to make the preservation of biodiversity an asset for its development and generate significant resources and sources of income in the years to come.”
Hailemariam Desalegn, Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Co-Author of the Conservation Continent, closed the event, calling on African governments to continue stepping up for nature. “Some of our species have already become extinct, our forests have been destroyed, our streams have dried up. This is an existential issue now, not just a choice.”