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Why fund Africa’s biodiversity?

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Why fund Africa’s biodiversity?
Africa is home to the world's most biodiverse regions. Eight of the 36 recognised global biodiversity hotspots are found on the African continent. These hotspots host, amongst others, more than 1,500 vascular plants that are endemic and found nowhere else on Earth. Image credit: Nicola Theunissen.

Why fund Africa’s biodiversity?

Funding is vital to preserve Africa’s ecosystems which are essential to sustain its biodiversity.

Compiled by Leon Louw, owner of WhyAfrica and editor of the WhyAfrica magazine.     

Africa is home to the world’s most biodiverse regions. Eight of the 36 recognised global biodiversity hotspots are found on the African continent. These hotspots host, amongst others, more than 1,500 vascular plants that are endemic and found nowhere else on Earth.

These areas have already lost at least 70% of their primary vegetation. The East African coastal forests, ranked among the top-ten most threatened biodiversity hotspots in the world, are particularly vulnerable.

The rainforests of the Congo recently overtook the Amazon as the world’s most significant carbon sink. This removal of carbon from the atmosphere is valued at USD55-billion per year. However, deforestation is progressing at a prodigious rate from the Congo Basin, across West Africa, diminishing the continent’s ability to provide such essential ecosystem services.

Why fund Africa’s biodiversity?
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Challenges facing Africa’s biodiversity (Why fund Africa’s biodiversity?)

According to author Al-Hamndou Dorsouma, there are a range of challenges facing Africa’s biodiversity.  Dorsouma writes in an article for the African Development Bank that the continent is experiencing an unprecedented decline due to population growth, extensive agricultural practices, rapid urbanisation, infrastructure development and illicit trafficking, among others.

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) estimates in a report that the overexploitation and degradation of the biodiversity ecosystems will result in the loss of 50% of Africa’s bird and mammal species, and 20-30% of lake productivity by the end of the century, as well as decline of wildlife and fisheries.

“Furthermore, armed conflicts have caused significant damage to Africa’s biodiversity as experienced in many conflict-affected African countries, with enormous impact on protected areas due to military activities and population displacement.  Examples include Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and the whole of the Great Lakes region which experienced significant decline in their wildlife populations within national parks and reserves,” writes Dorsouma.

It is estimated that 70% of Africa’s protected areas were affected by war between 1946 and 2010, with elephants, hippos, giraffes and other large mammals perishing as militants and hungry citizens hunted animals for meat and for marketable commodities such as ivory (Daskin and Pringle, 2018).

Biodiversity loss also combines with many other environmental problems such as sea and land pollution by toxic waste, plastics and heavy metals which affect the quality of life.

Why funding is vital to preserve biodiversity (Why fund Africa’s biodiversity?)

In a report titled Preserving Africa’s biodiversity: Why funding is vital law firm White and Case, African governments have been taking steps to conserve biodiversity in recent decades, aiming to slow the rate of ecosystem deterioration and species loss.

However, these efforts have fallen short of the 30 by 30 goal agreed upon in the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Several factors, including country-specific development priorities and global conflicts, along with the high cost of borrowing and various in-country physical and social risks, are causing major constraints for access to funding.

Following the 2022 Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 15), the participating nations agreed upon the Global Biodiversity Framework. Its main goal—known as “30 by 30″—is to “ensure and enable that by 2030, at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are effectively conserved and managed.”

Although nature-related risks and the need to protect biodiverse ecosystems are continent-wide, the priorities and solutions to fund biodiversity protection solutions differ from country to country.

“Several factors, including country-specific development priorities and global conflicts, along with the high cost of borrowing and various in-country physical and social risks, are causing major constraints for access to funding.”

Invest in nature-positive outcomes (Why fund Africa’s biodiversity?)

In the past, the world’s financial institutions have invested in nature-negative outcomes and not nature positive ones.

A recent report by WWF South Africa titled Financing Nature states that nature and the financial sector are inextricably connected. Since its inception in 2021, the science-led, market-based and government-supported Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) has been guiding the financial sector on risks and investment opportunities related to nature

The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) is a market-led and science-based initiative supported by governments, businesses and financial institutions globally.

Its aim is to bring about a shift in financial flows away from nature-negative outcomes towards nature-positive ones. The TNFD is aligned with the requirement of Target 15 of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) for reporting on and disclosing nature-related risks, impacts and dependencies.

By applying the TNFD framework, South African financial institutions can start identifying nature-related investment opportunities. In this way they can play their part in providing private-sector finance towards reaching GBF Target 3 or “30×30”. This is the most significant of the GBF targets that South Africa has undertaken to achieve.

Recognising the interconnectedness (Why fund Africa’s biodiversity?)

According to the WWF South Africa report climate change and nature loss are interconnected challenges that need to be solved together (following is an extract of the report).

“The TNFD framework recognises this interconnectedness, framing it as the “climate-nature nexus” (TNFD 2023).

“There are both synergies and trade-offs between climate change mitigation and adaptation and protecting biodiversity.

These include:

  • Exploring the impact of climate change on biodiversity
  • The capacity (or lack of it) of species to adapt to climate change
  • The resilience of ecosystems under climate change
  • Considering the thresholds to irreversible change and the
  • Contribution of ecosystems to climate feedback and mitigation.

“This exploration needs to consider ongoing biodiversity loss. To date, climate-related impacts have been the most common environmental focus for companies.

“Nature-related risks and opportunities are, therefore, still a relatively recent addition to their environmental considerations. As a result, there has been a significant imbalance in attention and resources dedicated to these matters by companies internally.

“However, many companies have integrated nature related risks and opportunities into their environmental sustainability agenda.

“This is in part the result of the attention brought to the climate agenda over the past decades and the policies and commitments it triggered, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement and the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework.

“Whereas certain companies have tackled biodiversity loss as an individual issue, many are aware of the inter-linkages between climate change and nature loss and want to tackle these risks together rather than in isolation.

“The GBF embodies a firm global commitment to invest urgently in the protection of biodiversity, recognising that an investment in nature is also an investment in the health, nourishment, livelihoods and quality of life of people.

“It is essential that the GBF agreement delivers immediate action on the ground, including the transformation of sectors driving nature loss, and financial support to developing countries to address biodiversity loss.

“In addition, the GBF represents a significant opportunity to roll out finance solutions to take various implementation plans to scale.

The GBF identifies a funding gap of USD700-billion per year to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. To fill that gap, commitments were made to increase finance from all sources: public, private, domestic and international.

“Included in this is aligning existing economic structures with nature. In South Africa, through collaboration with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), a Finance Task Force has been established for “30×30”.

“This taskforce – co-convened and supported by the Sustainable Finance Coalition, of which WWF South Africa is a founding member – is working to determine precise estimates and identify mechanisms for funding to achieve South Africa’s “30×30” implementation plans.”

Why fund Africa’s biodiversity?

Why fund Africa’s biodiversity?
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