The nature crisis and the climate crisis are closely linked and we cannot tackle one without addressing the other.

Nature and biodiversity underpin humanity’s wellbeing and support all economic activities on the planet. But biodiversity’s many intangible benefits mean that we have ignored its importance and let environmental problems reach a critical state. The nature crisis and the climate crisis are closely linked. We cannot tackle one without addressing the other. As negotiators from all over the world gather in Montreal, Canada, this December, the EIB’s lead biodiversity expert, Eva Mayerhofer, explains what’s at stake.

Why is biodiversity important?

All sectors of the economy rely on biodiversity in one way or another, but over half our GDP is significantly dependent on it. Nature and biodiversity provide life-supporting services such as food and clean water, but also flood protection, nutrient cycling, water filtration and pollination.

Because it is so intangible and is often invisible, we've been destroying nature at an unprecedented rate. We have reached the tipping points for biodiversity   and it’s largely because we haven't adequately taken into account its value and we've ignored the risks to the economy, the financial sector and also to the wellbeing of current and future generations.

COVID-19 was a stark reminder that the emergence of infectious diseases, driven partly by land-use change and wildlife exploitation, is just one example of the risks associated with our mismanagement of nature.

Biodiversity is an asset and we’ve failed to manage it sustainably. While the world’s per capita gross national product has doubled since 1992, the benefits that we derive from the services provided by nature have fallen by 40% on a per capita basis worldwide.  These unsustainable and inefficient growth patterns highlight the need for inclusive, nature positive growth and the need for us to urgently move away from GDP as a measure of economic success. It’s also important to recognise, as we did at the COP26 with the joint IPBES and IPCC report, that climate, nature and development are intrinsically linked. If we want to have any chance of getting on the trajectory to a 1.5 degree pathway, we need to protect nature.

Biodiversity was high on the agenda of COP27 in Egypt this year. What agreements were reached?

By the end of COP 26, it was clear that nature was no longer consigned to the fringes. At COP27, nature's critical role was further highlighted by a couple of important decisions.

One, the need for structural reforms to climate and nature financing. Every euro or dollar spent has to be multidimensional and address three key objectives: nature, or let’s say biodiversity or biodiversity loss; the SDGs; and climate resilience.

It was impossible at COP27 not to have a conversation about finance, but it means different things to different people. One highlight was the breakthrough on loss and damage funding that made the headlines. But this year there was a lot of attention on the need to create innovative mechanisms that support nature and climate at national and ecosystem levels.  One of the outcomes was the 10-point Plan for financing biodiversity, launched at UNGA 77 in September by the UK Government that set the pathway for bridging the global biodiversity finance gap, looking ahead to the COP15 on biodiversity this month in September and which moved ahead at COP27.

There was also a realization that we need a sister plan to the Paris Agreement, a kind of “Paris moment” for nature. This messaging was made loud and clear at COP 27. Unfortunately, this didn't make it into the final agreement.

There were positive outcomes on net zero emissions but there was nothing on the need for governments to halt biodiversity loss by 2030 in order to meet their net-zero emissions goals. So the link between climate and biodiversity didn't come through in the agreements and that was disappointing. However, there were strong signs of political will for forests, with the creation of a Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership and commitments to halt forest loss by 2030. So this is really important.

For the first time in the negotiations, there was also a commitment by Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo to prioritize stopping deforestation.

Another achievement was that they managed to include recognition for nature-based solutions, with forests, oceans and agriculture each having their own section. This is a significant win for nature.

Are you optimistic about the 15th COP on biodiversity this month?

The COP15 deals with the Convention on Biological Diversity, one of the three conventions agreed in Rio in 1992, along with climate and desertification. The reason why this particular meeting is so important is that we are renegotiating the framework. The last set of targets, agreed in 2010 in Aichi (Japan), came to an end in 2020 and have largely been missed. So we need to agree on a new global biodiversity framework.

The stakes could not be higher. So many issues will be negotiated and the new draft framework includes 20 targets from proposals to reduce pesticide use, address invasive species, reform and eliminate subsidies that are harmful to the environment, and especially increasing financing for nature from both public and private resources.

The new framework needs to be ambitious. Otherwise, we will end up in the same situation as we were in 2020 and won’t meet those 20 targets. It's also going to be addressing five key drivers of nature loss—the changing use of sea and land, overexploitation, climate change, pollution, and invasive species. The food system is also being addressed as a central point.

To move forward, an agreement needs to be reached on finance, including how much wealthy nations are going to support developing countries to finance the implementation of the framework. This is actually the key point, and that’s where the tensions lie. It’s the big obstacle to overcome before any agreement is reached. There are about 1 800 brackets on which we need to reach a consensus among all 196 signatories. But it is vital that an agreement is reached in Montreal so that the decline to our natural world is halted.

I am not super optimistic, but one of the biggest tensions is the divergent views on how much wealthy nations should contribute. Right now, the financing “ask” from developing nations is a minimum of 100 billion dollars a year, which is in line with the 100 billion dollars for climate finance. But the amount ranges from 100 billion to 700 billion dollars a year.

There have been some commitments from the EU, the Germans, the French, and the UK to double their financing, but at the moment, with the pledges that have been made, I think we are somewhere in the order of 40 to 60 billion a year.

So hope for a Paris moment on biodiversity is shaky.

How does the European Investment Bank help biodiversity?

Biodiversity/nature has been mainstreamed  into our Climate Bank Roadmap. If you look at The EIB Environment Framework we launched at COP 27, it consolidates the EIB efforts and activities contributing to environmental sustainability as defined in the CBR.

The Bank has committed to at least 50% of its activities to climate action and environmental sustainability by 2025. There are four objectives under environmental sustainability: pollution prevention and control, circular economy, sustainable use and protection of water resources, and protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem.

Financing directly nature will always be a niche area. To have a much larger impact, you need to shift the focus to addressing the drivers of biodiversity loss. A lot of companies have nature-positive targets, and by making our climate finance more nature positive, we are making sure that nature is protected.