Why mitigating biodiversity loss matters

Investments based on nature based solutions have the potential to transform Africa, considering its vast natural resources and young population.


Image : Curioso.Photography

It is recognised that biodiversity loss threatens the global economy and society particularly by depleting the natural capital on which our society and economy are underpinned. Moreover, poor ecosystems affect the health of the planet and the quality of life on Earth. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) has been proclaimed to stop and reverse the accelerating biodiversity loss and to prevent the degradation and loss of nature under a changing climate.

One of the key frameworks within which this is being pursued is the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which was adopted in December 2022 at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held in Montreal, Canada. The GBF contains four long-term goals (for 2050) and 23 action-oriented global targets to be initiated immediately and achieved by 2030. These are part of the repertoire of nature-based solutions (NBS) to not only biodiversity loss but also climate change and disaster risks and hazards across the globe.

The “30 by 30” Target

Target 3 is perhaps GBF’s most popularised under the catchy “30 by 30” phrase. It simply is the pledge to protect 30% of Earth’s land and marine areas by 2030. Currently only 17% terrestrial land and 10% marine areas are protected. The target essentially seeks to protect habitats and thus allow for biodiversity restoration and growth, considering that biodiversity loss is mostly driven by habitat loss and use.

Habitat loss is fundamentally driven by humans’ conversion of natural areas (e.g., natural forests) into, say, agricultural lands or for infrastructural development (e.g., settlements, roads, dams etc), although ‘natural’ processes such as desertification also contribute to loss of biodiversity. Overexploitation of certain species – e.g., through fishing, hunting, or harvesting of forest products such as wood and timber – also contribute to biodiversity loss.


Despite its ambition, this target is more political than scientific, and has been critiqued as being quite an arbitrary one. Protecting areas is not the same as protecting biodiversity – in fact, it has been observed that biodiversity has declined over the past decades despite an increase in protected areas. The target is established within the GBF’s clear recognition of local communities and indigenous communities that have been custodians of biodiversity for millennia.

However, renewed protectionist approaches in its pursuit are likely to create negative relationships with local communities in many places, especially where these communities own land. In fact, these communities have already been victims of dispossession by governments and multilateral actors in the name of development and climate response measures.

To make it work, the implementation of this target – and others too – must be sensitive to the social and governance dimensions within and beyond where it is implemented even as the environmental goal is pursued. This will require vigilance from and by the private and public actors – including the civil society and community groups. In many countries, these will necessitate a review of existing policies and strategies or development of new ones. 

Financing is going to fundamentally determine the extent to which this target is achieved. There must be a substantial increase in public and private funding is required to close the NBS financing gap. Data from the 2022 State of Finance for Nature report indicates that currently, only $154bn is flowing into NBS financing, a paltry year-on-year growth of 2.6% against the $150bn report in the 2021 report. This amount is 40% of the $384bn needed annually by 2025. This is also barely 32% of the $484bn investment required by 2030. Private financial flows amount to $26bn, or just about 17% of the required annual NBS finance.

To meet the close the financing gap for 30 by 30, the private financial flows must be boosted significantly. Without these financial flows, the 30 by 30 target may be missed by a large margin.  

Considering that $22bn (or about 96%) the $23bn spent annually on management goes to protected areas on terrestrial land, much more is required towards conservation of marine ecosystems and resources. Majority ($19bn, or ~83%) of this spending is in Europe ($10bn) and North America ($9). Africa only accounts for about 3% (or about $1bn), suggesting a huge need and potential for accelerating NBS investments in this vast continent.

NBS and its financing are going to be central points of discussion in the upcoming Africa Climate Summit 2023 (ACS23) in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4th t0 6th September. In fact, ACS23’s six key thematic areas – climate finance; mitigation and green growth; climate adaptation and resilience; loss and damage; climate-vulnerable groups; and research innovation and technology – are potentially fertile grounds for the advancement of tangible actions in the area of NBS.

In addition, the ‘five core growth thrusts’ of its current agenda include ‘natural capital’ and ‘sustainable agriculture, land and water/ ocean use’ which are particularly central to NBS and the 30 by 30 target. The other three – energy transition/ renewable energy; Green minerals and manufacturing; and sustainable infrastructure and urbanisation – are also areas where NBS investments have potential to transform the continent, considering its vast natural resources and young population. These two elements – natural capital and demographics – have led to Africa being termed as the ‘continent of the future’. 

This article originally appeared in IC Intelligence Insight 09: Climate & Nature Redux. Click to view more articles from the report.

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Martin Brown Munene

Martin Brown Munene is a Doctoral Researcher in Environmental Policy & Development at the Grantham Research Institute.