Conservation groups call for rich nations to bankroll biodiversity efforts

  • Environment groups call for $60 bln/yr in biodiversity financing
  • Wealthy nations responsible for ecosystem harm from trade
  • Several biodiversity meetings loom on horizon

LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - Environment groups are calling for wealthy nations to boost spending on biodiversity conservation in developing countries and in that way account for the harm done by international trade.

On Tuesday, groups including the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Campaign for Nature and World Resources Institute, announced a goal of mobilizing $60 billion annually in international biodiversity finance.

That follows developed countries commitment to $100 billion in annual climate financing to help poorer nations, which have been disproportionately affected.

"We have a moral obligation to provide developing countries with the means to conserve nature," said Bruno Oberle, director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

One million animal and plant species are currently threatened with extinction - more than ever before in human history. In the Amazon alone, more than 10,000 species are at risk of disappearing due to the clearing of the rainforest for cattle ranching, soy farming and other uses.

More than $700 billion is needed each year to address the global biodiversity crisis, out of which $500 billion can be taken care of by canceling harmful subsidies, the groups said. Out of the remaining $200 billion, developed nations should provide 30%, or $60 billion.

"International trade is driving about 30 percent of species' threats globally," explained Manfred Lenzen, a sustainability researcher at the University of Sydney. What it means, he said, is that wealthy countries are largely able to protect their own habitat and environment while "they outsource all these problematic biodiversity activities elsewhere and import commodities produced in low-income countries."

The environmental groups announced the goal ahead of a major round of United Nations' biodiversity negotiations due in Geneva later this month. The goal is to secure wealthy countries' commitment ahead of next month's meeting on the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China.

In 2009, wealthy nations promised to mobilize $100 billion per year for climate financing by 2020. But they have fallen short of that goal and latest estimates say it will not be reached until 2023. Despite their poor track record on environmental financing, conservation leaders hope rich nations will understand it is in their interest to act.

"This is not a tax for biodiversity," said Marco Lambertini, director general of World Wildlife Fund International. "This is an investment in the services that biodiversity is generating for our society, for our economy, for our wellbeing and health."

Reporting by Gloria Dickie Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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Gloria Dickie reports on climate and environmental issues for Reuters. She is based in London. Her interests include biodiversity loss, Arctic science, the cryosphere, international climate diplomacy, climate change and public health, and human-wildlife conflict. She previously worked as a freelance environmental journalist for 7 years, writing for publications such as the New York Times, the Guardian, Scientific American, and Wired magazine. Dickie was a 2022 finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists in the international reporting category for her climate reporting from Svalbard. She is also the author of Eight Bears: Mythic Past and Imperiled Future (W.W. Norton, 2023).