How do we get ‘beyond the gap’? By placing biodiversity finance in the global economy

As CBD negotiations ramp up, one thing that we can expect for sure is that there will be a lot of talk about ‘the gap’, that is, the discrepancy between current financing of biodiversity conservation, and the projected amount needed to arrest biodiversity loss. Discussions about this gap tend to treat biodiversity conservation as a simple mathematical equation: add money and there will be less biodiversity loss. Of course, the problem with this framing is the extent to which practices that contribute to biodiversity loss are embedded in our current political-economic system; a problem that will not be so easily solved by injecting funding into existing conservation models. In response to this oversight, our research collective, alongside the Third World Network, has produced a report[1] that proposes a different framing of the issue, which includes concrete recommendations for negotiators and civil society about how to address these underlying drivers. 

To move ‘beyond the gap’, we must consider two important questions. First, how is the structure of the global economy implicated in biodiversity loss, and what are the potential levers that could be moved to change these conditions? We analyze trade, investment and financial regulations alongside patterns of debt, austerity, and global inequality that fall across racialised, gender, class, and colonial lines. These are not only outcomes of, but also drivers of, extractivism, and thus ongoing biodiversity loss, and must be addressed as such.  

Second, we ask: how have current attempts at closing the gap performed thus far? We review the impacts of payment for ecosystem services (PES) projects, Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), private and blended finance schemes, as well as voluntary and market-based efforts to create sustainable supply chains and to manifest more sustainable financial flows. What our findings point us toward is that all of these approaches represent marginal interventions to the overarching context of biodiversity loss, both in terms of raising extra forms of capital for conservation and delivering conservation outcomes. What’s more, they often have negative social impacts, and risk re-entrenching asymmetric power relations. Especially when placed in the context of the global economy, it is clear that even a considerable increase in funding for these policy solutions will not be able to turn the tide on biodiversity loss. 

Of course, more financial resources are necessary; one critical way this deficit must be addressed is by rich governments finally living up to their commitments to ‘common but differentiated responsibilities made in Rio. But, we argue, without attempts to interrupt patterns of debt, austerity, and inequality, more funding will not create the ‘transformative change’ that is sought. To address underlying drivers, we have put together a briefing paper with a list of recommendations under the following five subheadings. 

We recommend the parties of the CBD to:

1)    End the debt-austerity nexus that fuels extractivism and impedes CBD implementation. 

2)     Regulate finance and penalize industries known to damage biodiversity and the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities.

3)    Ensure biodiversity finance does not impede transformative change nor undermine CBD objectives, UNDRIP, and UNDROP. 

4)    Reduce domestic and international wealth and power inequalities that impede transformational change. 

5)    Act on dismantling class, caste, racial and gender inequalities that underpin biodiversity loss and impede conservation and sustainable use. 

Only through a re-orientation of the CBD negotiations to the underlying conditions that cause biodiversity loss will solutions that create ‘transformative change’ be possible. 

To read the specifics of these recommendations, access our briefing paper (also available in other UN languages) at:

by Audrey Irvine-Broque, Biodiversity Capital Research Collective

[1] ‘Beyond the Gap: Placing Biodiversity Finance in the Global Economy’, available at


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