Climate change and biodiversity financial initiatives should be re-framed as investments rather than costs, reflecting the services the environment provides.
That’s the view of Gustavo Fonseca, Head of Natural Resources at the Global Environment Facility (GEF), who says that viewed through this prism, increased financial commitments would be easier to secure.
“The concept is very attractive, and we would like to see biodiversity investments as being that, not costs that you have to bear all the time,” he said.
“It’s not about offsetting biodiversity through a cash transfer, it’s about making sure that ecosystems can still provide the services that serve the poorest of the poor, and where substitutions by other means would cost much more.”
Ecosystem services are the processes by which the environment produces resources used by humans such as clean air, water, food and timber for building – and the economic value of these ‘services’ has risen to prominence in recent years.
The GEF serves as a financial mechanism for all three of the UN’s Rio Conventions – focusing on climate change, biodiversity and desertification. As such it wants the conventions to work more closely together – and Fonseca argues that greater cooperation between climate change and biodiversity projects would help the limited finance available go further.
“The climate change convention needs to get in the mood of the biodiversity convention who has decided the priority is not to negotiate more; the priority is to implement more,” he told RTCC. “Building on these synergies is actually another way to multiple the available resources of the individual funding lines that we have.”
He added that countries must find some “financial muscle” to ensure environmental protection, adding that this was not only about international assistance to poorer countries.
“[Countries] understand themselves they need to have a new strategy for resource mobilisation that actually gets us out of this trap that we find ourselves in,” he said. “We are liquidating natural capital, we are liquidating natural resources and we are not internalising a lot of those gains.
“And it is not solely through international assistance. Developing countries are going to get out of that position. It is by reforming their own economies; it is about introducing policy measure which takes them closer to that objective.”
The UN Biodiversity summit in Hyderabad ended with a compromise on finance that saw developed countries double their funding pledges from $5bn to $10bn.
The agreement came following intense negotiations that lasted until the late hours of Friday night (October 19), well past the 6pm deadline set by the COP.
RTCC INTERVIEW: Watch the full interview with Gustavo Fonseca