Over 25 years after it came into force, what is your assessment of the Convention on Biological Diversity?
The Rio Convention has spearheaded major advances... For example, it has allowed each country to establish national strategies for biodiversity. It has supported the implementation of a global plan for the development of protected areas and for biodiversity it has laid down the principle of a public good accessible to all, in order to avoid the risk of monopolization. The Aichi Targets (20 targets related to biodiversity for 2011-2020) also stem from it.
However, it is not mandatory to apply these recommendations and proposals. National strategies do not have a real accountability system. In addition, hardly any interministerial efforts have been made, in particular in key sectors such as industry, transport, agriculture and urban development.
What is the aim of this 14th Conference of the Parties?
It will especially involve preparing the agreement which needs to be reached in Beijing in 2020 during COP15. The Beijing Agreement is intended to be the equivalent for biodiversity of the Paris Agreement for the climate, meaning a global and comprehensive agreement that will reverse the deterioration of the natural capital in a systematic and ambitious manner. It will ideally involve commitments by country, in responsibility, with a homogeneous mode of compatibility so that a comparison can be made in terms of the global effort that needs to be made.
It is the architecture of this agreement which will be on everyone’s mind in Sharm-el-Sheikh... For example, is there a need to strengthen national strategies or come up with much more voluntary sectoral plans? Should government mandates at the COP remain at the level of Ministers of the Environment or move up to the level of Heads of Government? A number of strategic points will also be brought up, formally or in the corridors.
What subjects is AFD taking to Sharm-el-Sheikh?
At the Business and Biodiversity Forum, we have just presented the biodiversity working group set up in the club of development banks (IDFC). The idea is simple: better qualify both the positive and negative impacts related to the financing of development banks. It is a key point that will enhance the dialogue with the companies involved. Some of them are already working on accounting for the dependence of their activities on the biosphere.
As a public development funder, our role is to improve our standards and the impact of our investments, but also to ensure that economic sectors undertake an improvement process. It is essential: it involves paving the way for pro-nature finance.
AFD’s other concern is to formalize the solutions we are proposing to African countries to prepare this comprehensive agreement on biodiversity. We are working on a facility which will be specifically devoted to this support.
Is it possible to eradicate biodiversity loss?
Yes, it is, if we move towards a better remuneration of the natural capital! We currently produce USD 80,000bn of GDP a year worldwide, but we only earmark USD 50bn to USD 60bn to the maintenance of ecosystems... Less than a thousandth. It is too little in view of all the services and solutions rendered by nature. It is far too little for the maintenance of what amounts to life insurance for humanity.
A better remuneration, this means that the fisheries industry pays a bit more for the maintenance of oceans, that foresters pay a bit more for the protection of forests, that industries and manufacturing businesses significantly reduce all their impacts, that elected officials vote a slightly higher budget for nature, that finance takes a little more account of the impacts of its investments, that land development compensates for the built-up surface areas, that consumers also contribute to being more demanding, etc. It is a whole set of things which involves everyone.
According to the projections, it would be necessary to earmark 0.1 to 0.2% of world GDP for the maintenance of biodiversity in order to reverse the phenomenon. It is a lot, but it is possible. For example, it is a level of commitment that is less radical and costly than the transition towards a low-carbon economy.
What is currently holding back such a turnaround?
In the context of the current ecological crisis, biodiversity and its value are extremely strong when you look at the very long term: 30, 50 years and more. Yet we have trouble considering the long term. The economy currently especially rewards the short term.
Consequently, taking biodiversity into account requires overhauling our framework for thinking – and for economic analysis – to better integrate the long term, meaning the planet.
What practical solutions does AFD promote in the field?
We finance a number of exemplary projects for protected areas. This is the case for the Marsabit forest in Kenya: we are supporting an area which is firstly a bank of natural resources – water, wood, fodder, animals – for an entire territory and its populations. The project strengthens this area and the sharing of resources in its vicinity. It makes it possible to stabilize and secure a territory and take a long-term approach to it.
We thereby help our partners to develop economically viable protected areas, meaning they conserve nature, but also value at local level, with tourism, arts and crafts... It does not mean putting them in a bubble!
By converting natural areas into plantations or cities to meet urgent short-term needs – housing or food – we produce a lot of value in one go, but over 50 years, we lose some of it... If the value derived from the ecosystem had not been destroyed, it would have been much higher. It is one of the drivers of the current drama. Ecosystems produce value: it is better to keep it over the very long term and use their products without destroying the capital.
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