Richest 20 nations urged to lead on nature protection with more finance

With a new global pact to halt biodiversity loss due this year, pressure is rising to close the gap in funding needed to achieve its goals.

G20 leaders summit in rome
Employees arrange the Saudi Arabian flag during the final preparations before world leaders gather for the official family photograph on day one of the G20 leaders summit at the convention center of La Nuvola, in Rome. Image: Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

The world’s 20 richest nations should more than double their annual spending to protect and restore nature to $285 billion by 2050, the United Nations and donors said on Thursday, calling for private and overseas investments to be ramped up too.

In a first joint report on finance for nature in the G20 countries, they estimated that spending by the bloc - which includes large emerging economies — was $120 billion in 2020.

Co-author Ivo Mulder, who heads the climate finance unit at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said the report’s focus on the G20 and nature funding gaps could help those rich nations that have shown political leadership on the issue in recent months, including at the COP26 climate summit.

“The amount of money being invested in nature-based solutions is not nearly enough,” Mulder told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “I would hope that G20 countries can lead by example and they’re not doing that at the moment.”

The report looked at how wealthy nations can better tackle the planet’s climate, biodiversity and land degradation crises, such as by promoting sustainable farming and supply chains, or creating green spaces in cities to tackle rising heat.

Stepping up protection for natural areas, such as parks, oceans, forests and wildernesses, is seen as vital to maintaining the ecosystems on which humans depend, and to limiting global warming to internationally agreed targets.

Dozens of countries pledged to do more to conserve nature and make farming greener at November’s COP26 UN climate talks, including a commitment by more than 100 nations to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.

Last year, a UN report said global funding for nature conservation needed to triple this decade to about $350 billion a year by 2030 and rise to more than $536 billion by 2050.

The new study said the spending gap was larger and more difficult to bridge outside the G20 group of countries — not helped by the fact that only 2 per cent of the G20’s $120-billion investment in 2020 was directed towards overseas aid.

Funding from G20 nations represented 92 per cent of all global investment in nature, the report found, with the vast majority of this government money — 87 per cent, or $105 billion — allocated to programmes inside their own borders, the report said.

Finance from the private sector also remains small at 11 per cent of the G20 total, or $14 billion a year, even though it contributes about 60 per cent of gross domestic product in most G20 countries.

The report’s authors called on the G20 to grab opportunities to boost their international investment in things like restoring degraded land and ecosystems, which can often be cheaper and more efficient than similar nature-based projects at home.

The report also noted that more than $14.6 trillion was spent by 50 leading economies in 2020 to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, of which only $368 billion, or 2 per cent, was considered “green”.

Governments need to “build back better” instead of following normal spending patterns after the Covid-19 crisis, it added.

Mulder said the report’s findings could help governments implement their COP26 pledges and push forward with efforts to finalise a new global pact to halt and reverse biodiversity loss in Kunming, China, later this year.

Companies and financial institutions should fully disclose climate and nature-related financial risks, he added, while governments should re-purpose agricultural subsidies that harm nature, introduce trade-related tariffs on similarly damaging goods, and set a floor for forest carbon prices.

“The climate and nature crisis are two sides of the same coin,” said Justin Adams, director for nature-based solutions at the World Economic Forum, which co-led the report.

“We can’t turn things around unless we transform our economic models and market systems to take nature’s full value into account,” he said in a statement.

This story was published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate.

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