Reform needed to fund biodiversity in developing nations

Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Minister Creecy.

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy has called for significant reform of the global financial system and of multilateral development banks to fund developing countries’ biodiversity and climate change initiatives.

Addressing the 5th Global Conference on Biodiversity Finance in Cape Town, the Minister said South Africa’s biodiversity is not only a national and cultural asset but is also a source of economic prosperity through the sustainable use of a wide variety of plants and wildlife. 

“Mechanisms such as debt for biodiversity swaps, payment for ecosystem services, as well as greater availability of grant financing and concessional loans must be considered in the context of achieving sustainable financing mechanisms for developing countries. Neither our biodiversity nor our climate change objectives can be achieved by Global Environmental Facility (GEF) funding or by further loans to developing countries, the majority of which are already heavily indebted,” Creecy said on Tuesday.

According to research conducted in 2017 (and updated in 2022), some of the many ecosystem services provided by natural ecosystems in South Africa could be valued at R275 billion per year (R325 billion in 2022).

“This conservative valuation is equivalent to 7% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Biodiversity is also the basis for substantial employment in economic activities that depend on biodiversity for their core business, including such industries as the wildlife economy, ecotourism, natural resource management, biotrade and research.

“In 2014, biodiversity-related employment was estimated at approximately 400 000 jobs. A survey of retail stores found 549 products containing indigenous South African species, such as aloe, rooibos, honey-bush, baobab and hoodia are just some local plants that have been used in lucrative international medicinal, cosmetic or food products.

“Many local and international tourists travel in South Africa to take part in nature-based activities, and to view and enjoy our diverse country. Approximately 12% of tourism demand, or R31 billion, is based on biodiversity, and tourist attractions account for R1 billion in tax spent on products and 88 000 direct jobs,” Creecy said.

The Minister said a strong connection with nature is associated with the health and well-being of a nation’s citizens.

There are approximately 2 000 medicinal plant species in South Africa and traditional medicines are used by 70% of South Africa’s people, providing 293 000 South Africans with income generating opportunities and contributing about R18 billion to the economy each year.

“Despite these important developments, there is still a massive financial gap when it comes to funding in the biodiversity sector. This gap is both global and local. Some estimates put the global biodiversity funding gap at US $598 billion to $824 billion per year by 2030.

“BIOFIN has costed our own National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) of 2018 and revealed that the cost of implementation is approximately R63 billion ($3.7 billion) at 2018 values over the planned 10 years of implementation.

“This costing was prior to the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework and we can now safely estimate that the costs will be considerably more,” the Minister said.

A rough update of the figures for 2021 showed that about R17.8 billion ($1.1 billion) was allocated in that year, accounting for less than 1% of government spending. This was supplemented with R849 million (less than R1 billion) from the private sector (largely related to private nature reserves) and R597 million ($35 million) from non-government organisations.

Creecy acknowledged international donors such as the GEF for funding conservation practice in South Africa. 

“Over the previous four GEF-funding cycles since 2010, more than $100 million has been committed for biodiversity projects in South Africa,” the Minister said. –