The UK’s footprint on global biodiversity Contents

4International development and biodiversity

76.Many of the world’s critical ecosystems are found in developing countries. Between 65 and 75 per cent of people in the world’s poorest regions live in rural areas.120 Studies have shown that when ecosystems deteriorate, the rural poor tend to suffer most.121 This section examines how biodiversity considerations could be mainstreamed into the UK’s international development partnerships.

The interconnection of climate change, sustainable development and biodiversity

77.The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has argued that ongoing rapid declines in biodiversity and ecosystem functions will also mean the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will not be achieved on current trajectories. Negative trends in ecosystems undermine progress towards 80 per cent of the SDG targets related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land.122 The IPBES told us that that these declines would also undermine the Paris Agreement goals and the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity.123

Cross-government co-ordination and accounting for natural capital in international development

78.Despite the intrinsic link between climate change, sustainable development and biodiversity, governments are failing to tackle these issues in an integrated manner.

79.In his research, Professor Dasgupta has noted the systematic neglect of ecology in development economics and amongst development agencies, despite that:

in the poor world natural capital is not only an amenity, it is also a primary factor of production. Often, it’s a basic need.124

Professor Dasgupta noted that although international development agencies are now acknowledging the costs that people in developing countries will face due to climate change, concerns have been largely about the efficacy of an international “cap-and-trade” system and the assistance rich nations ought to give poor countries.125 He believed institutions had ignored analysing the poverty traps that come from development assistance that ignore natural capital.

80.On the question of whether developing countries can or even should develop sustainably whilst responding to market demands and problems created by developed countries, Professor Dasgupta said:

there is enough inefficiency in poor countries to enable governments there to identify policies that both protect and promote natural capital and alleviate poverty. The idea that the poor world can enjoy sustainable development only when there are significant improvement in the international economic architecture is belied by evidence on village life in poor countries.

Development policies that ignore our reliance on ecological capital are seriously harmful—they don’t pass the mildest test for intra or intergenerational equity.126

The UK Government’s performance on mainstreaming biodiversity concerns into international development assistance

81.The Government has stated that in international development it is delivering solutions that are good for “people, nature and the climate.”127 In January 2021 the UK committed to spending at least £3 billion of International Climate Finance on nature-based solutions to climate change, over five years.128 The entire £11.6 billion allocation on International Climate Finance will come from the existing aid budget, which itself was reduced from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of gross national income in 2021.129 Observers of the past climate agreements130 have claimed that, in accordance with UN brokered climate agreements such as the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 and the Paris Agreement in 2015, international climate finance commitments should be “new and additional”.

82.The UK’s main contribution to tackling global biodiversity loss is through funding of the Global Environment Facility (£250 million between 2018 and 2022).131 The Global Environment Facility (GEF) provides grants and support to developing countries for projects to address global environmental problems, although the extent and capacity of this fund to tackle global biodiversity loss alongside all other environmental problems has been challenged.132 DfID, now FCDO, also funds forestry programmes (£430 million) and programmes to strengthen national customs and trade regulations to reduce illegal timber trade.133 In September 2019, the Prime Minister announced a £220 million International Biodiversity Fund to fund overseas territory projects, address illegal wildlife trade and support five biodiverse landscapes.134

83.This said, written evidence submissions expressed concern that development funding for conservation was still comparatively low. Conservative think tank Bright Blue told us that:

historically a pitiful amount of UK overseas development assistance [was] spent on global nature conservation. Government funding for global biodiversity conservation, including both bilateral (country-specific) and multilateral sources, averaged £75 million per annum between 2010 and 2013—the last period for which formal government figures are available. This figure represents only 0.5% of the approximately £14 billion annual UK Overseas Development Assistance budget. Contrast this with Germany and the USA, which each provide on average around $600–700 million per annum for global nature conservation.135

84.Stakeholders have welcomed the new package of overseas development assistance (ODA) for global conservation but have called for greater mainstreaming of biodiversity concerns into international development policy more generally. Bright Blue said that DfID has been almost exclusively focused on poverty eradication at the expense of other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).136 This is supported by analysis from the International Institute for Environment and Development which found that that while some funds, such as the Defra and DfID-managed Darwin Initiative and Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, explicitly aimed to integrate poverty and environment objectives, the bulk of cross-governmental ODA goes to funds that are dedicated to stimulating non-targeted economic growth or to addressing security concerns.137

85.Mott MacDonald, one of the largest private contractor recipients of DFID
funding138, told us the problem was donor organisations, like the former DFID, did not prioritise or provide funding allocation to address biodiversity:

due to priorities of our clients biodiversity and ecosystem concerns seldom take centre stage and often seem of peripheral concern.139

86.Mott MacDonald emphasised the disconnect between individual project terms of reference (ToR) and the integrated systems thinking approach that is required to address cross-cutting themes like biodiversity and climate change. They stated that:

Terms of Reference [for projects] are usually developed in silos, within the context of individual beneficiary ministries and catering to KPIs of donor organisations [like DFID] that are equally siloed, with very limited horizontal collaboration between different departments.140

87.To address these issues the JNCC has called for biodiversity to be fully considered in policies such as trade, official development assistance, development planning and investments.141 The WWF and RSPB recommended DFID’s Economic Development strategy be analysed for deforestation risk.142 The RSPB and Bright Blue recommend that all future ODA spending be climate and nature positive.143 Bright Blue add that the FCDO should adopt a ‘do no harm’ policy in relation to global nature, such that any aid project that damages or destroys nature should not receive UK ODA. Bright Blue recommend that the Independent Commission for Aid Impact should determine whether any harm to global nature has been caused by any UK ODA supported projects.144 Minister Goldsmith told us that the Government has recently committed to nature-proofing all ODA expenditure.145 As far as we are aware, the nature of how this will be done has not yet been publicly disclosed.

Our view

88.Consideration of natural capital must be a priority in the assessment of overseas development assistance projects. Nature sustains all of us and becomes even more critical in a developing country context. We welcome the Government’s announcement of a new International Biodiversity Fund and its commitment to nature-proof all overseas development assistance expenditure. We now need to see the detail of how the Government intends to achieve this and how the Government will mainstream consideration of biodiversity across development, trade, security and foreign policy. We regret that the Government’s international climate finance commitments, including its commitment to £3 billion on nature-based solutions to climate change, is not new and additional funding, but rather a redirection of the existing and reduced aid budget.

89.We recommend that in response to this report the Government detail how it intends to nature-proof overseas development assistance, and how compliance with this commitment will be monitored.

120 Hassan et al. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, Vol. 1: State and Trends (2005)

121 Hassan et al. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, Vol. 1: State and Trends (2005).

124 Dasgupta, The Place of Nature in Economic Development (2009) p. 8

125 Ibid

127 Defra (BIO0054)

129 HM Treasury, Spending Review 2020, (November 2020) Paragraph 6.48, p.70

130 Center for Global Development, Is Climate Finance Towards $100 Billion “New and Additional”? (March 2021); Roberts et al. Rebooting a failed promise of climate finance. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2021); Romani, M., & Stern, N. Delivering climate finance: Principles and practice for funding the Fund. London: Grantham Institute (2011)

131 Defra (BIO0054)

133 Defra (BIO0054)

134 Defra (BIO0054)

135 Bright Blue (BIO0006)

136 Bright Blue (BIO0006)

137 RSPB (BIO0023); iied, CAFOD, RSPB, Christian Aid, WWF-UK, Oxfam GB, Making UK ODA fit for purpose in a changing world (November 2019); iied, UK ODA and sustainable development, (November 2019)

138 Developmentaid, DFID funding trends: a review of the agency’s most contracted partners between January and September 2019 (2019)

139 Mott MacDonald (BIO0053)

140 Mott MacDonald (BIO0053)

141 JNCC (BIO0012)

143 RSPB (BIO0023); Bright Blue (BIO0006)

144 Bright Blue (BIO0006)

Published: 30 September 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement