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African leaders call for urgent financing to protect world’s biodiversity

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
25 July 2022   |   3:06 am
Ministers and experts from across Africa have called for an urgent increase in financing to protect the world’s biodiversity.They also urged all nations to commit one per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and protect 30 per cent of the planet by 2030.

African leaders

Ministers and experts from across Africa have called for an urgent increase in financing to protect the world’s biodiversity.They also urged all nations to commit one per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and protect 30 per cent of the planet by 2030.

They made the plea at the Africa Nature Finance Forum, held last week on the sidelines of the inaugural African Protected Areas Congress (APAC) 2022.

The natural world is disappearing at an unprecedented rate. One million plant and animal species now face extinction, many within decades, and 60 per cent 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 finalised 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,” Nigerian Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi said. “Today, only 15 per cent of the world’s land mass and seven per cent of the oceans are protected. So far, African nations have created over two million square kilometres 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 per cent 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 one per cent of GDP to address the biodiversity finance gap and protect our planet’s future.

“The global biodiversity finance gap stands at $700 billion: committing one per cent of global GDP would generate $850 billion. And the great thing about the one per cent proposal is that this is Africa’s idea. It shows initiative and financial leadership from Africa,” Abdullahi said.

“We are not begging for you to give us the money to protect our biodiversity, we are committing one per cent 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 per cent of the cost of protecting or conserving 30per cent of the planet’s land and ocean by 2030 (a proposal known as 30×30) would disproportionately fall on low and middle-income countries, 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.

“By 2100, we may lose half of our bird and animal species, 20-30 per cent of the productivity of African lakes and significant numbers of our plant species,” said Hon. 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.”

Manager, Policy Analysis Division, African Natural Resources Centre (ANRC), Dr. Vanessa Ushie, 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 Hon. 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.”

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 Hon. 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 center of resource mobilisation,” said Egbuwalo.

Ambassador for the environment at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, France, Sylvie Lemmet, 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.”