Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) First Regional Workshop for Europe, Asia and the Pacific

Mar 3, 2015

His Excellency Hans Ola Urstad, Ambassador of Norway to Malaysia,

Representatives from the Governments of Malaysia, Bhutan, Indonesia, Fiji, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam,

UNDP Colleagues, Experts and Esteemed Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good morning to all of you.

I am very pleased to join you at the opening of the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) First Regional Workshop for Europe, Asia and the Pacific in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

And I thank the Government of Malaysia for co-hosting this important workshop, and for its strong partnership and support to UNDP.

The continuing destruction of nature and loss of biological diversity have reached alarming proportions. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, almost 70% of Mediterranean forests, woodlands and scrub, 50% of tropical and sub-tropical grasslands, savannahs and shrub lands and 30% of desert ecosystems had been lost by 1990. Coastal and marine ecosystems have been heavily impacted by human activities, with degradation leading to a reduced coverage of sea grasses and corals. And the rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.

This biodiversity loss is currently costing at least US$ 740 billion annually in lost ecosystem services that are vital to our economies and our well-being.[1] The progress we have made on the Global Biodiversity Aichi targets since Nagoya, such as extending conservation areas, is on track, but, still, the overall progress is insufficient to  stop biodiversity loss by 2020.

First of all, poverty and population growth mean that many developing countries find it an immense challenge  to avoid exploiting their natural habitats. In the apparent conflict between conserving biodiversity on the one hand, and socio-economic development on the other, nature conservation usually comes out on the losing side. Consequently, the size of the existing nature reserves is much too small to preserve biological diversity in the long term. Secondly, many countries lack the financial resources and institutional capacity to upkeep their biodiversity and ecosystems.

We need to recognize that conserving biodiversity is more than just protecting the environment that we live in; it is about sustaining human development gains. Biodiversity is essential for human well-being through provision of ecosystem services such as provisioning of clean water, flood mitigation and spiritual experience, which contribute to economic growth, and social and cultural values. We must find ways for our economies to grow, with the benefits shared by all our citizens, and do so within the limits of our planet.

We come together here today because we know that maintaining biodiversity and ecosystems will deliver huge benefits for people, the economy and the environment; and that the benefits of conservation and sustainable use can significantly exceed the costs of investments. This is important for sustainable development, by supporting the creation of jobs and improvement to livelihoods. For example, the UN Aral Sea Programme in Uzbekistan introduced beekeeping business to the rural communities, where the fishermen and farmers have lost their income source as the Aral Sea is drying up. By keeping bee hives, individual entrepreneurs are able to bring an estimated income of up to US$ 935 each year; and honey becomes an important dietary supplement to the families.  At the same time, beekeeping has had a positive effect on the environment, contributing to the improvement of biodiversity through the massive pollination of vegetation in the region.

Development activities should be undertaken in coherence with the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. The social and economic costs of biodiversity and ecosystem services loss will be felt at an accelerating rate in the future, and investments made now will reduce resource requirements in the future. Since the opportunity costs are likely to impact poor people most, effective action depends on appropriate incentive structures that take account of distributional effects.

Barriers to meeting the Aichi targets may have as much to do with a lack of the appropriate institutional frameworks and decision-making processes as with a lack of resources. The third edition of the Little Biodiversity Finance Book in 2012 finds that funding for biodiversity and ecosystem services was US$ 51.8 billion in 2010, the year in which the world missed the Convention on Biological Diversity target to “achieve a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss”.  Obviously, the current scale of finance is insufficient to meet the hundreds of billions of dollars needed for biodiversity worldwide.

There is therefore an urgent need, at all levels, for significant alignment between the Aichi Targets and other policy agendas, including development, economic growth, poverty alleviation, climate change, agriculture, water and health. More efficient coordination of policy, actions and the deployment of resources would enhance synergies and deliver co-benefits. These co-benefits need to be recognised by national planning and accounting systems. Achieving the Targets will require more efficient use of public budgets, together with the development of innovative financial instruments and incentives. Much can be gained by phasing-out perverse incentives and unsustainable practices, development of green fiscal policies, and sector integration.

Distinguished guests,

It is with this in mind that  UNDP launched BIOFIN in 2012.  BIOFIN is  a global partnership seeking to address the biodiversity finance challenge in a comprehensive, country-driven manner, and has been working along two main axes: firstly, the globally-led development during 2013 of a new bottom-up methodological assessment framework; and secondly, the recently begun implementation of this methodological framework at national level. Implementation of the framework involves countries analysing the integration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in sectoral and development policy, planning and budgeting; assessing future financing flows, needs and gaps for managing and conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services; developing comprehensive national Resource Mobilization Strategies to meet the biodiversity finance gap; and initiating the implementation of these Resource Mobilization Strategies.

Work is conducted together with Ministries of Finance, Economics or Planning and Ministries of Environment in 19 core countries as of December 2014: Botswana, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Seychelles, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda and Zambia. BIOFIN is financed through a  USD 15 million contribution from the European Union and the Governments of Germany, Switzerland and Norway – in addition to USD 3 million of co-financing from the Global Environment Facility, especially for in-country projects in support of the revision of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans.


UNDP, consistent with our mission, believes that finance for biodiversity is a long term investment for our future. What we aim to achieve from this workshop and at the end of BIOFIN are countries better equipped with strong evidence and the business case to prioritize and scale up existing financial resources from public, private, national and international sources to implement concrete actions in biodiversity conservation and protection, which, in turn, can make a significant contribution to sustainable human development.

In closing, let me emphasize again that this workshop is an excellent platform to connect policy-makers from environment to development and financial planning with practitioners on the ground, and to exchange views on the effective investment of financial resources for biodiversity. With the diversity of experiences and knowledge amongst us gathered today, I know we will get the most out of this unique occasion to share experiences and explore new and innovative solutions for a better and sustainable future.

Thank you.

[1] Parker, C., Cranford, M., Oakes, N., Leggett, M. ed., 2012. The Little Biodiversity Finance Book,

Global Canopy Programme; Oxford.

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