Around a million species could face extinction unless we take action. The WWF Living Planet report 2022 estimates that species populations have declined by an average of 69% since 1970. Ocean habitats and marine life are also under serious threat from climate change and plastic pollution. As United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres put it at the opening of the United Nations Biodiversity conference in Montreal: “Humanity is a weapon of mass extinction”.
The unprecedented destruction of nature threatens our economies and livelihoods. Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are essential to providing our food, water and energy, as well as regulating the climate.
Partnerships are the key
Multilateral development banks (MDBs), like the European Investment Bank, are taking action to mainstream biodiversity considerations in everything they do and scale up nature positive investments.
A year ago, MDBs adopted the “Joint MDB Statement on Nature, People and Planet”, in which they collectively committed to step up efforts towards the protection, restoration and sustainable use of nature. Last month, MDBs reported progress on the implementation of the joint statement and showed how they are already translating pledges into action.
The European Investment Bank is committed to:
- Align our operations to support the goals of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework
- Scale up our nature-positive investments through: a) mainstreaming biodiversity across policies, investments and operations; b) assessing nature-related impacts, dependencies and risks; and c) scaling climate finance with nature co-benefits
- Announce concrete initiatives, programmes, partnerships with commitments to supporting biodiversity investments and/or biodiversity co-benefits
The need for robust standards
To address climate change, biodiversity and nature in a holistic manner, robust environmental and social standards are essential. In addition, we also must integrate biodiversity externalities into the economic analysis of projects. The European Investment Bank’s Environmental and Social Standards do just this.
We are applying the principles of “Do No Significant Harm” across our Standards. We have strengthened our standard on biodiversity and ecosystems, moving from a “no net loss” to a “no loss” of biodiversity objective in operations we finance. These standards apply to all the Bank’s operations, inside the EU and globally.
The new European Investment Bank Environment Framework, launched at COP27, will help us implement the Joint MDB Statement, and step up our efforts to protect, restore and use nature sustainably.
To scale up nature-positive investments, private sector engagement is essential. Our sustainability awareness bonds, which have the highest integrity and transparency standards, cover forest management as well as the sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources, and the protection and restoration of biodiversity. When we crowd in private investors, we effectively create a benchmark and help to raise the bar for issuers and investors in the market.
Another important aspect to halting and restoring biodiversity loss is the enhancement of our risk management framework, by assessing biodiversity-related (physical, systemic and transition) risks to projects and counterparties.
Helping projects get off the ground
To increase financing for nature-positive projects, more investment from all sources—public, private, national and international—are needed. MDBs have an important role to play in helping projects overcome the most pressing market failures that often slow down or hinder the design and implementation of nature-positive investments. They can also help to bridge structural investment gaps, particularly with regard to constrained access to finance.
Ahead of COP15, the European Investment Bank published a new sector paper entitled “Forests at the heart of sustainable development” and a related brochure emphasising the role of public banks, in developing the sector sustainably. Forests cover about 30% of the Earth’s land and host about 80% of the world’s biodiversity.
With over 40 years of lending to the forestry sector, the European Investment Bank has developed extensive expertise in financing sustainable forestry operations and stands ready to do more. Over the last decade, the Bank provided around €15 billion to the forestry sector, improving more than three million hectares of degraded landscapes through sustainable forest and land management.
At the European Investment Bank, we will continue to enhance our product offering to generate nature-positive financing in support of biodiversity by addressing specific investment needs and market gaps and by catalysing additional green investments that crowd in the private sector.
For example, the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund, in which we have invested, targets sustainable land use and ecosystem restoration projects in developing countries. Projects include sustainable coffee value chains in Peru and sustainable forestry in Ghana which reduces land degradation and increases forest cover.
Another example is the EIB`s work for clean oceans and the blue economy. The EIB’s Blue Sustainable Ocean Strategy aims to improve the health of oceans, build stronger coastal environments and boost sustainable blue economic activity. Earlier this year we partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility to set up the Mediterranean Pollution Hot Spots Technical Assistance initiative, which aims to reduce pollution in the Mediterranean’s marine and coastal environment.
In addition, the Clean Ocean Initiative aims to provide €4 billion of financing by the end of 2025 for reducing plastic pollution at sea. Examples include improved wastewater treatment in Sri Lanka, Egypt and South Africa, and solid waste management in Togo and Senegal.
There is no credible pathway to 1.5°C degrees if we do not get serious about protecting nature. Halting biodiversity loss is not enough, we must reverse it. Therefore, as the EU Climate bank, we will continue to work with other partners in Europe and around the world to scale up financing to protect nature and biodiversity.