November 30, 2020

By Paige Olmsted


As 2020 comes to a close many are reflecting on how a lot did not quite go according to plan. With ten years to achieve the UN Sustainable development goals, as well as many national commitments related to biodiversity and climate change, 2020 was supposed to kick off many global and national initiatives, as discussed in our Earth Day blog post.  In the environmental sector as with most others, many key international meetings were cancelled or postponed.  

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) annual conference of the parties, which was supposed to take place in October in China, has been moved to May 2021. In the lead up to this meeting, there will be specific attention to country commitments, and action plans to achieve ambitious targets. Canada is one of several countries that has already committed to conserve 30% of land and sea by 2030. Collectively, these countries are encouraging other nations to make similar commitments, resulting in a global goal of 30% by 2030.   

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the interconnectedness between humans and nature, and the risks we face when ignoring these connections. Similarly, we cannot discuss large scale conservation without considering the tightly connected relationship to climate change. Conserving intact landscapes and restoring degraded ones to improve species habitat can also meaningfully contribute to climate mitigation (e.g. via nature-based carbon sequestration, maintaining soil carbon stores) and adaptation (e.g. reducing flood risk, supporting water quality and availability).  

Achieving net-zero targets and biodiversity objectives will require both leadership and political commitment, and significant financial support and investment.  

The global financing gap to achieve commitments to conserve biodiversity is estimated at $711B, less than the global annual expenditure on soft drinks. While governments provide the majority of direct conservation funding, bridging this gap will require scaling government commitment as well as increased contributions from private sector actors and charitable and philanthropic contributors.  Mechanisms to attract funding for conservation, restoration, and other practices that improve climate and biodiversity outcomes -- broadly referred to as "conservation finance" -- have received particular attention recently due to growing interest in nature-based solutions to climate change. 

Smart Prosperity is deeply involved in national conversations related to conservation finance, and several research efforts will be emerging in this key moment for nature. 

  • A forthcoming report on Catalyzing Conservation Finance in Canada (stay tuned), which outlines the current status of conservation finance in Canada, and discusses the barriers and opportunities for growth of the sector.  

Work in progress includes guidance materials and analysis that address two key barriers identified by our report. Specifically, 1) improving methods and metrics to make the business case for investment, and 2) promoting an enabling policy environment.  This work will be rolling out in the new year as:  

  • Simplified methodology to measure and communicate the economic payoff from projects that provide nature-based climate solutions through conservation, restoration, or sustainable management of natural landscapes, to support environmental NGOs to make the economic case for investment in nature-based solutions. 
  • Assessing how health considerations are and can be integrated into environmental decision-making, as well as how consideration of nature-based solutions in a COVID recovery context may influence health decisions.  
  • Case Studies that examine policy opportunities for natural infrastructure in Canadian cities. 
  • Guidance for policy makers on specific opportunities for conservation finance and associated mechanisms as they align with nature-based solutions related commitments at the federal level, and enabling policies that may facilitate scaling NBS.  

As part of the global conversation, this Wednesday December 2nd SPI will be participating in an online roundtable “Canada’s Action on Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Adaptation” hosted by Environment and Climate Change Canada, The Global Adaptation Commission, and IISD (register here). Expect to hear more on this and related topics from SPI in the months to come as we seek to support the integration of nature into decision-making across sectors, as a key component of scaling conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of natural resources action on the ground.

Paige Olmsted

Conservation Finance Specialist