COP15: how to finance an ambitious agreement to protect biodiversity?


After two years of reports, the COP15 on biodiversity will finally be held from December 7 to 19 in Montreal. The summit should establish a new global framework to halt the erosion of biodiversity from here to 2030.

The appointment seems crucial: none of the previous goals covering the period 2010-2020 has not been achieved and the pressure on natural environments continues to increase. Species are disappearing at an unprecedented rate, more than a million are threatened with extinction and 75% of the earth's surface has already been altered by humans.

Tensions are crystallizing in particular around the question of the funding of the new global framework, an essential condition for the success of an ambitious agreement. The mobilization of all actors, public and private, is necessary.

This particularly concerns protected areas, a flagship instrument for the protection of biodiversity. Just to achieve the goal of safeguarding 30% of terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030, it is estimated that the financing needs of these areas will rise between 149 and 192 billion dollars per year.

Faced with these considerable amounts, the experts indicate that it is necessary to create favorable ecosystems of financing making it possible to diversify the mechanisms and the sources. As such, several tools are of great interest and would benefit from being developed.

This is the case of Conservation Trust Funds which contribute, less through large volumes than through their continuous, stable and long-term action, to build this funding ecosystem. There are around a hundred of them currently in the world, eight of whom are supported by the French Development Agency and the French Fund for the Global Environment. Of their Evaluation, we have learned several useful lessons from the perspective of scaling up.

Profitable and stable

Conservation Trust Funds are private, legally independent institutions that aim to provide sustainable funding dedicated to conservation actions. They act like “life insurance contracts” for protected areas.

Thus, resources collected from international donors, States or private sector actors make it possible to generate a financial return via diversified investments on the capital markets. This is then donated in the form of grants to protected areas or non-governmental organizations (NGO) acting in favor of biodiversity. These funds thus complement the support already provided by the States and the resources drawn from tourism.

The first lesson that emerges from our study is their ability to achieve their financial performance, around 4% on average, while limiting risk-taking. The investment policies governing the structuring of the funds' financial portfolio and defining the return objectives were largely respected and applied effectively.

Especially, second lesson, that this is done with great stability. The tool has the ability to create significant and above all regular additional resources for the conservation of terrestrial, marine and coastal biodiversity. Even in the midst of a health crisis, these funds were able to continue to allocate grants when many funds were no longer provided elsewhere.

La fund governance and their internal mode of operation were also analyzed. It highlights compliance with the standards of practice developed by the Conservation Finance Alliance (CFA), which leads the fund community and promotes the development of their expertise. A learning effect should also be underlined: the most recent creations benefit from the teachings and experience of the older ones.

Financial ethics to be further improved

La International community gradually engaged to increase the areas to be conserved and the number of marine and terrestrial protected areas and the Conservation Trust Funds have been able to respond to developments in this area. New activities, growth, diversification of funding sources, increased requirements in terms of monitoring activities, all this could be observed.

The eight funds were able to mobilize new resources in a dynamic way, and proved their role as a catalyst for financing. Innovative tools have been adopted, such as payments for ecosystem services, which aim to remunerate actions to restore or protect ecosystems. In Mauritania, for example, the Fund Bacomab has thus positioned itself in fisheries agreements with the European Union. It has since benefited from a financial transfer linked to the service rendered by the Banc d'Arguin National Park, the main beneficiary of Bacomab, for the renewal of the halieutic resource.


Bacomab, in Mauritania, provides funding to the Banc d'Arguin National Park and its stakeholders who take care of fisheries resources. Christine Vaufrey/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Our work nevertheless reveals limitations in the monitoring of ethical standards applied to investments. It seems that there is a real challenge in strengthening ambitions in this area, from their formulation to their effective implementation. While the assessment notes the significant progress already made, reflections are underway for better supervision with increasing recourse to so-called socially responsible investments, respecting environmental, social and governance criteria.

For better impact monitoring

The analysis was also intended to judge the impact on the ground of the financing allocated by these funds and more specifically of their effective contribution to the conservation of biodiversity. While efforts are continuing to take better account of environmental and social risks in the definition and monitoring of activities, it appears that the impacts are not easily measurable and attributable to support from Conservation Trust Funds.

Some have been able to develop appropriate monitoring tools and support protected areas on these subjects: this is the case of the Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity of Madagascar, which has set up, with the protected areas it supports , indicators allowing it to report on the impacts of the activities financed on the improvement of biodiversity. But many still have to take a new step here to support their growth.

These financing mechanisms, which appeared at the end of the 1990s, have multiplied and have not ceased to improve over the last thirty years, while ensuring their primary mission: to finance the protection of biodiversity in a stable and sustainable manner. Admittedly, they probably still have to further strengthen the ethical standards of their investments and the measurement of the impact of their activities.

But the results seem largely positive, especially given the recent crises which have sometimes led to drastic reductions in public funding for conservation in the face of public health priorities or the fight against insecurity. The negotiators present at the next COP15 thus have solid arguments not to forget to include these mechanisms in the creation of a financing ecosystem for the global agreement on biodiversity post 2030.

Claire Cogoluenhes, Evaluation Officer, French Development Agency (AFD) et Julien Calas, Biodiversity researcher, French Development Agency (AFD)

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.


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