Los Nevados, just outside of Tolima, Colombia
A number of NGOs have banded together to ask the planet’s most developed nations to ante up some much-needed funding for the protection of biodiversity in still-developing parts of the world. This request, to the tune of $60 billion per year, represents a dramatic shift towards recognizing the responsibility that these countries have as large-scale consumers while providing a promising framework to stop the sixth mass extinction through cooperative financing.
The Nature Conservancy, the Rainforest Trust and the World Resources Institute are just a few among the groups calling on Canada, the U.S., U.K., the E.U. and Japan to make a financial pledge ahead of the Convention on Biological Diversity taking place in Kunming, China this April — and with good reason. The environmental costs of international trade have long been borne by those producing the goods, not those consuming them. As such, the true cost to the environment has not been reflected in the prices that consumers pay and, in essence, these costs have been passed back to the same people who rely on these ecosystems for survival.
According to Manfred Lenzen, a researcher focusing on sustainability at the University of Sydney, international trade accounts for approximately thirty percent of species loss. He explained to Reuters that by relying on raw materials and cheap labor in developing nations, richer countries have been able to shield their own environments from the repercussions of production without incurring any responsibility for ecosystem degradation or biodiversity loss abroad.
This would be bad enough if all ecosystems were created equal. Unfortunately, those at the most risk are also the most diverse, which makes it all the more imperative to act. As Dr. Bruno Oberle of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, put it for edie, “Providing local and indigenous communities with the necessary means to conserve nature is not only a moral obligation, but also a sound investment that will generate high returns for all of us.”
At the present rate of human activity, our planet is expected to lose between 30 and 50 percent of all species by the middle of this century. Some scientists warn that the sixth mass extinction is already in progress based on the rapid disappearance of invertebrates. This is bad news all around but especially for agriculture, which could expect to lose $217 billion per year if pollinators go extinct. (Not to mention the dire repercussions for the global food system itself.) It’s not just extinction either. Scientists have found that close to half of all land mammals have only 20 percent of their range left over the previous century.
According to the World Economic Forum, $44 trillion worth of the global economy (about half) is at least moderately reliant on the natural world. For that reason alone, it behooves the most developed nations to take this entreaty seriously. After all, the requested $60 billion represents a fraction of the potential cost to the economy and humanity if biodiversity is not fully financed.
There is hope, however. The United Nations still considers it possible to turn things around with an $8 trillion investment by 2050. That’s a huge increase from the current $10 billion that it estimates is allocated each year. Of course, doing away with the $1.8 trillion in subsidies that support environmentally destructive industries will go a long way towards achieving this goal.
Many governments made substantial commitments at the first half of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which took place in Kunming during October 2020. China has promised $230 billion towards a Kunming Fund for biodiversity projects at home and abroad. Japan will dedicate $17 billion to domestic biodiversity projects. While the E.U. has agreed to double its financing for biodiversity abroad.
It remains to be seen whether the nations in question will agree to the requested $60 billion in funding. Still, cooperation is imperative to stopping species loss and protecting biodiversity. By committing to the requested funds, the richest nations can demonstrate to poorer ones that they are willing and able to cooperate towards a better future.
Cooperation between developed and developing nations is imperative if the sixth mass extinction is going to be stopped. So is financing. This request for $60 billion represents a shift in understanding that financing should come from those who consume, not just those who produce. By paying their fair share while empowering the people who live in vulnerable ecosystems to protect biodiversity without having to choose between economics and survival, developed nations can ensure the sustainability and profitability of our planet.
Image credit: Leon Kaye