Putting biodiversity at the heart of IDA's work

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As part of the World Bank funded Sustainable Land Management Program, the whole community, men as well as women, work relentlessly to prevent erosion and land degradation by planting local species of trees. © Andrea Borgarello/World Bank
As part of the World Bank funded Sustainable Land Management Program, the whole community, men as well as women, work relentlessly to prevent erosion and land degradation by planting local species of trees. © Andrea Borgarello/World Bank

When people talk about biodiversity, it is often through the lens of conservation and the survival of animal and plant species. But the value drawn from a healthy biosphere is much more than that – it delivers a steady supply of food, water, jobs and livelihoods and helps to regulate climate.

Nature underpins all forms of life and economic activities, but this way of life is threatened on many fronts.  Our oceans are overfished and polluted with plastic; 1 million plant and animal species (out of 8 million) face extinction within decades, according to the latest scientific assessments, and deforestation and soil degradation have reached epic levels.

As a leading financier of biodiversity work, the Bank is working closely with countries to support their efforts to better conserve and sustainably manage biodiversity.  Projects run the gamut from integrating coastal zone management and protected areas in West Africa and India, investing in watershed management and sustainable forest practices in Ethiopia, to stopping rampant wildlife crime that is wiping out key species. In 2019, IDA supported $619 million worth of direct investments in biodiversity in an overall multi-sector portfolio of $3.3 billion funding interventions in forestry, agriculture, and sustainable livelihoods.

We’re also working with countries to generate revenue from biodiversity, whether from payment for environmental services that can then help to cover the cost of managing biodiversity or through sustainable tourism.

Ethiopia is an example of a country that is reaping the benefits from addressing land degradation and at the same time improving biodiversity.  Under the Bank’s decade-long support for the Sustainable Land Management Program, about 900,000 hectares of land is now being sustainably managed, benefitting some 2.5 million people. This work has led to better water access, less soil erosion, improved food security, higher yields, and diversified sources of income – resulting in more resilient livelihoods. The project has also improved land tenure security and nearly half a million households now have legal land certificates, including some 11,000 landless youth who received certificates in exchange for restoring degraded communal lands. This land tenure work is part of a broader program that has resulted in around 10 million homes with land certificates – a program that encourages people to invest in making land more productive and conserving soil and water – which in turn delivers biodiversity benefits.

Financing from the International Development Association (IDA) totaling $600 million is supporting our newest programs in Ethiopia: the Climate Action through Landscape Management Program for Results, and the Resilient Landscapes and Livelihoods Project. Under the resilient landscapes project, we are identifying biodiversity “hotspots” – areas of high biodiversity value that are in danger due to land degradation and other pressures. We will support the government in working with communities to establish so-called green corridors – strips of continuous, native vegetation that will link fragmented forests and help restore watersheds where biodiversity can flourish. The corridors will also support livelihoods, including beekeeping, a flourishing industry in Ethiopia.

We are using a similar approach in other countries, plus working with governments to strengthen policies and regulations that will, for example, improve forest governance and prevent wildlife crime through the creation of protected areas. On the policy front, we’re also making sure that countries include the value of natural capital and ecosystem services in their decision-making processes and planning. Through our Global Program on Sustainability, 18 countries are using natural capital accounting to inform policy decisions, moving beyond GDP and putting natural capital on par with built assets such as infrastructure and financial capital.

On the global stage, there is a window of opportunity over the next year to address biodiversity loss as countries negotiate a new framework for biodiversity.   This will be finalized next October at the COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Kunming, China. A key challenge in Kunming will be to agree on a new set of targets to replace the Aichi Biodiversity Targets adopted a decade ago in Nagoya, Japan. The Aichi targets, due to expire this year, have not been met and the global community is working towards a transformative post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

In the run-up to the COP CBD, the World Bank is informing the discussions through research that will make the strong economic case for investing in nature and show the impact of the loss of ecosystem services that nature provides. The research will also analyze policies that could reverse this loss, including the reduction of subsidies that harm rather than enhance biodiversity.

Authors

Karin Kemper

Global Director, Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy Global Practice, World Bank

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