As delegates discuss how to halt the on-going loss of biodiversity, a key question remains unanswered: who is going to pay the bill? Ultimately, the success of this conference and indeed the Convention on Biological Diversity as a whole rests upon the ability of delegates to find common ground on the thorny issue of funding.
Part of the problem is a lack of reliable information on the biodiversity funding gap. It’s not quite clear how much money is actually needed. There is an urgent need for better reporting on the sources, uses and effectiveness of spending on biodiversity, together with objective assessments of what it will cost to achieve the targets set out in the draft Strategic Plan.
Currently, the positions adopted by delegates seem far apart. Developing countries continue to call for new and additional grant funding from richer nations, with some also expressing reservations about the potential of market-based solutions. The developed countries – many confronting severe constraints on public spending – call instead for the rapid development of “innovative financing mechanisms” that can leverage new funding from the private sector.
On a more positive note, today’s launch of the final synthesis report of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study suggests some possible ways forward. Better accounting for the benefits and costs of biodiversity conservation can help clarify priorities and justify action. TEEB also offers practical examples of how to reconcile conservation needs and development pressures, while making biodiversity conservation, restoration and the sustainable use of ecosystems a financially rewarding enterprise. We can only hope that, as countries continue to discuss the issue of funding for biodiversity, they do not limit their options in the process and that they ultimately agree to embrace the kind of rigorous economic accounting and implement the types of innovative financial mechanisms described in TEEB.