Mar 03, 2021
TWN Briefing Paper, Resource mobilization and the Convention on Biological Diversity: moving beyond the gap

TWN Briefing Paper, February 2021
Resource mobilization and the Convention on Biological Diversity: moving beyond the gap

Jessica Dempsey, Sara Nelson, Jens Christiansen, Audrey Irvine-Broque, Fernanda Rojas-Marchini, Patrick Bigger, Adriana DiSilvestro, Andrew Schuldt and Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza

Three patterns characterize resource mobilization since the advent of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992:  

1) Insufficient resources flowing to all three CBD objectives,1 due to developed-country governments failing to deliver on obligations to provide new and additional financial resources to enable developing countries to effectively implement their commitments.2 This is often referred to as the “financing gap”: the discrepancy between what is needed to finance the three objectives and the resources available.

2) Widespread austerity in the public sphere and ongoing resource and wealth transfers from developing to developed countries via extractivism, debt servicing, tax evasion and trade measures.3 This has pushed states, multilateral development banks (MDBs), and some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to create and promote a flurry of largely inadequate and at times deleterious initiatives to entice private capital into achieving CBD objectives.

3) Exponential growth in public and private financial flows fuelling biodiversity- degrading industries and sectors amidst ineffective voluntary approaches to “regulate” these financial flows and businesses.

“The gap” – pattern one – has dominated biodiversity policy discussions, obfuscating patterns two and three: the glut of free-floating, unregulated public and private finance bankrolling extinction coupled with persistent austerity and ongoing resource transfers from developing to developed countries.  

There is an alternative approach: one that centres strong state and multilateral action to regulate and redirect flows of biodiversity- and community-degrading finance, one that advances public institutions and policies capable of rectifying past and present global inequalities. The importance of coordinated global action linking environmental and social justice has become even more apparent amid calls for a green recovery from pandemic-induced economic recession. As economist Jayati Ghosh recently put it, “Internationalism is not a luxury. It is a necessity.”4  

There is some recognition of this alternative in the proposed resource mobilization component of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) that is currently being negotiated. It outlines three pillars of its mission to accomplish “transformative, inclusive and equitable change across economies and society”:5 a) reducing or redirecting resources causing harm to biodiversity; b) generating additional resources from all sources to achieve the three objectives of the Convention; and c) enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of resource use.6

This is a welcome shift. But efforts to advance transformative change and these three goals must learn from the past and from the established research. In a longer research report titled “Beyond the gap: placing biodiversity finance in the global economy”, we explore the track record of existing efforts and initiatives for achieving each of these objectives. Key insights from that dossier are summarized below. As we detail in the recommendations section, deep political-economic reforms and dedicated public investment are required to ensure ambitious progress towards CBD goals, including the conservation, sustainable use and fair and equitable benefit sharing of global biodiversity use for current and future generations.

Learning from previous rounds of climate and biodiversity finance is especially important in light of growing enthusiasm for “nature-based solutions” (NBS). Advocates of the NBS approach should heed one lesson in particular: piling investment into nature without addressing the primary ingredients of extractivism – namely, international trade and financial rules, deep wealth inequalities, high debt loads, and pervasive austerity – is a recipe for planetary ruin and further human rights abuses.

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