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Aichi Targets Progress is Slow, But Smart Policy to Unleash Private Investment in Nature Can Help Reach Conservation Goals

by

Andrew Deutz

The Nature Conservancy's Director of International Government Relations

December 2016

Local shrimp fishermen from El Gulfo de Santa Clara in Sonora, Mexico. Photo © Nick Hall
Local shrimp fishermen from El Gulfo de Santa Clara in Sonora, Mexico. Photo © Nick Hall

Every two years, the United Nations hosts governments and conservation organizations for the Convention on Biological Diversity. The recent focus of these conferences is based on the 2010 conference in Japan, where the world adopted an ambitious set of targets to safeguard the planet’s biodiversity by 2020. Among those so-called “Aichi Targets” was a goal for each country to protect at least 10 percent of their marine and coastal areas. The 2016 conference here in Cancun, Mexico got off to a promising start on Monday, when Mexican President Pena Nieto announced his country is tripling its protected areas estate, including several, large marine protected areas on both coasts. Those announcements make Mexico a global leader in marine conservation, and allows them to more than double the 10 percent goal.

That is the good news. The not so good news, as documented in a new analysis the Conservancy is releasing with several of our conservation partners, shows that in aggregate, countries are way behind in meeting the very goals they all negotiated and agreed were essential for biodiversity conservation. These include targets like: essentially stopping the unprecedented loss of species and natural habitats; making forestry, fisheries and agriculture sustainable; phasing out harmful subsidies; and mobilizing financial resources to support poor countries’ efforts.

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The analysis shows that most countries have not set domestic policy targets that are in line with their global commitments, and that only a handful of countries are on track to meet any of their targets. This is worrying.

We need Nature. It plays an essential role in providing clean air and clean water, protecting against storms and sea level rise, regulating our climate, and ensuring sustainable, nourishing food. The Aichi Targets are a critical milestone for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and the Paris Agreement’s climate goals by 2050. There is no time to lose. Countries, companies and communities need to double down on investing in Nature for all of the priceable and priceless goods and services it provides.

"Countries, companies and communities need to double down on investing in Nature."
- Andrew Deutz

Much of the thinking behind the development of the Aichi Targets suggested changes in government policy and the need to invest a lot more public resources in safeguarding biodiversity. While that is true, there are limits to the scalability of budgets of environment ministries and protected areas agencies. Real success will come from smart, market-enabling policies that create the right signals and incentives for private investment in Nature. The hottest topic in the side meetings here in Cancun is about innovative finance and how to make Nature investable.

We are seeing tangible progress towards three critical strategies: investing in natural infrastructure for the services it provides, greening corporate supply chains, and making conservation an asset class for private investors. Conversations here in Cancun and elsewhere cause me to be optimistic that we are close to critical tipping points on all three strategies. When those happen, investment in Nature can scale exponentially, meaning the SDG and Paris goals are still achievable, and striving towards the Aichi Targets will get us closer to those goals. But first, we still must get those smart policy enabling conditions in place.