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  • Context

    Biodiversity is an essential element of life, the very fabric of "natural capital". The enormous variety and complex interactions between species, no matter how small or insignificant they might seem, keep our ecosystems functional and make our economies productive. Nature provides nutritious food, supplies clean air and water, sustains livelihoods, acts as a buffer against extreme weather events and regulates the climate.

    The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of the close relationship between human and planetary health. It is estimated that 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic (those transferred from animals to humans). Pathogens thrive where there are changes in the environment, like deforestation, and when natural ecosystems are under stress from human activity and climate change.

    Our biodiverse planet is threatened by an unprecedented transformation and exploitation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems – driven mostly by human activities. One million animal and plant species, out of a total estimate of 8 million, risk extinction, many within decades, according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

    Less than 13 percent of wetlands present a few centuries ago remain today and live coral reefs have nearly halved in the past 150 years, while a third of fish stocks are over-exploited. Although the pace of deforestation has slowed globally since the 1990s, it remains high with annual deforestation of about 13 million hectares, affecting critical animal and plant habitats. This loss of biodiversity has negative effects on livelihoods, water supply, food security and resilience to extreme events. It has consequences for the world’s extreme poor who live in rural areas and often rely on ecosystems and the goods they produce to make a living.

    Health risks also increase. By altering land use–for settlement, agriculture, logging, extractive –- humans fragment and encroach into animal habitats. They destroy the natural buffer zones that would normally separate humans from animals, allow the proliferation of species that are better adapted to human-transformed environments (e.g. bats and rats), and create opportunities for pathogens to spill over from animals to people.

    Healthy ecosystems provide services that have in many cases significant economic value. For instance, between 5-8 percent of global crop production, with an annual market value of up to $577 billion, is directly attributable to natural pollination. However, pollinators are under threat, and this can be expected to lead to significant economic losses. (IPBES report on Pollinators, Pollination, and Food Production).

    The World Bank estimates that crimes affecting natural resources and the environment inflict damage on developing countries worth more than $70 billion a yearThe loss of coral reefs has significant physical and economic consequences for 350 million people living in coastal areas by reducing coastal protection and habitat for fish. Deforestation and land conversion contribute about 25% of global greenhouse emissions, and the loss of diversity reduces the resilience of ecosystems to climate change and other disturbances. 

    Last Updated: May 21, 2021

  • The World Bank plays a catalytic role in recognizing biodiversity and ecosystems as a central part of development through its investments, analytical work and policy dialogue.

    Through the Environmental and Social Framework, the World Bank screens all its investment projects under the lens of the standard on “biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of living resources”, applying a precautionary approach to project design. The World Bank is committed to supporting the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity Parties in the development of a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to be adopted at a landmark Conference of the Parties in Kunming, China. As part of this support, the World Bank is partnering with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the University of Minnesota and Purdue University in conducting pioneering analytical work that combines, on a global scale, the world’s premiere models and datasets for ecosystem services analysis and for Macro-economic/Computable General Equilibrium (GGE) analysis. This work will make it possible to assess the economic impact on the global economy of ecosystem services’ loss under different scenarios. Similarly, the analysis will assess the impact of alternative policy responses.

    As the world responds to and recovers from the current pandemic and the resulting economic recession, it will need a robust plan for protecting nature, so that nature can protect humanity. The recovery offers an opportunity to ‘’build greener’’ and to start defining ways in which the design of economic stimulus packages can integrate longer-term sustainability considerations, including solutions that can boost the economy and deliver positive environmental outcomes simultaneously. The modeling and analytical work on biodiversity the World Bank is spearheading will generate insights on economic impacts of different policy scenarios, helping governments as they design their recovery plans.

    Recognizing, measuring and managing natural capital and ecosystem services at the country level is key to protecting biodiversity. Natural capital should be considered an asset class on its own – otherwise we risk rolling back development gains. The World Bank report, The Changing Wealth of Nations, found that natural capital makes up nearly half (47%) of wealth in low-income countries.  This estimate will likely increase as our next version of the report will expand calculations of natural capital to include oceans and other ecosystem services.

    The World Bank-led WAVES partnership, which has evolved into the Global Program on Sustainability (GPS), has been working with countries to incorporate the economic value of natural capital  and the risks associated with its degradation in decision-making processes. We are also working to make sustainable finance part of the solution., engaging with the financial sector to support a better integration of risks and opportunities associated with natural capital into investment decisions and reporting

    Through PROBLUE, our program to promote the development of integrated and sustainable economic activities in healthy oceans, we are ramping up work to address marine plastics and other threats to ocean health, like overfishing and the destruction of natural habitats such as mangroves. The World Bank also launched PROGREEN, a program that addresses challenges to land-based natural assets threatened, for example, by land-use change, land degradation, desertification and illegal logging.

    The World Bank works with countries to put policies in place so that biodiversity is valued as a key driver of sustainable development. We help countries promote coordination across different economic-sectors and improve their administration of natural resources to better conserve and sustainably use their biodiversity. We invest in those aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem services—such as watershed management, integrated coastal zone management and protected areas—that help countries achieve their development goals. We also help countries find ways to generate revenues from biodiversity—including through tourism or payments for environmental services—that will cover the cost of managing their biodiversity and improve economies. The World Bank Group works closely with partners on issues including wildlife crime, forest governance, and the oceans.

    Given the complex links between people and land, the World Bank has adopted a more integrated landscape approach that simultaneously works on improving the resilience of both ecosystems and livelihoods.

    Last Updated: Apr 16, 2020

  • The World Bank's work toward protecting biodiversity includes establishing and expanding protected area systems, such as the Amazon Region Protected Areas program (ARPA) in Brazil and the Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program financed by GEF and including Brazil, Colombia and Peru – countries which together cover more than 75 percent of the Amazon. The program has helped protect around 60 million hectares of rainforest. A study published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences credits ARPA with a 37% decrease in deforestation between 2004 and 2009. The Bank is also applying the lessons learned from this experience into a project in Brazil that aims to triple the marine area under protection while directly benefiting 800,000 people.

    The World Bank is increasingly supporting clients to implement a more integrated approach, one where sustainable livelihoods are seen as a key strategy towards protecting areas that are rich in natural capital.  Mozambique’s conservation areas have been designated to protect the country’s diverse habitats —which include a coastline with spectacular coral reefs and more than 6,000 plant, bird and mammal species. Mozambique Conservation Areas for Biodiversity and Development Project (MozBio), has 20,000 beneficiaries in the Chimanimani, Maputo, Gilé and Quirimbas National Parks, almost half of whom are women. With its unique model of sharing 20% of state revenue with communities, the MozBio project has generated tens of thousands of dollars in income derived from tourism. Over 1,600 jobs in nature-based tourism have been created since 2014. The second phase of the project goes through 2023 and aims to further support rural communities while continuing conservation and biodiversity efforts.

    Ensuring that biodiversity considerations are factored into World Bank infrastructure projects is another key area of work. For example, in the Malawi Shire Valley Transformation Project, the main irrigation canal will include a tall, permanent drop structure to prevent the possibility that invasive fish species could enter Lake Malawi, a globally renowned freshwater ecosystem with hundreds of fish species found nowhere else. In Laos, the Nam Theun II hydroelectricity project led to the establishment of a major new national protected area along the watershed of the Nakai River.

    The Bank also makes investments that support the long-term viability of biodiverse areas and helps to establish institutions that safeguard natural capital. In South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland  Park, a strategic US$9 million investment led to the ecological restoration of Lake St. Lucia, South Africa’s largest estuary and a World Heritage Site. This innovative protected area project also provides a model for effective benefit-sharing with local communities, as well as for resolving pending land claims in ways that do not damage the Park’s biodiversity or tourism value.  

    Ethiopia is addressing land degradation and at the same time improving biodiversity.  Under the Bank’s decade-long support for the Sustainable Land Management Program, about 900,000 hectares of land is now being sustainably managed, benefitting some 2.5 million people. This work has led to better water access, less soil erosion, improved food security, higher yields, and diversified sources of income – resulting in more resilient livelihoods. The project has also improved land tenure security and nearly half a million households now have legal land certificates, including some 11,000 landless youth who received certificates in exchange for restoring degraded communal lands. This land tenure work is part of a broader program that has resulted in around 10 million homes with land certificates – a program that encourages people to invest in making land more productive and conserving soil and water – which in turn delivers biodiversity benefits. Under a new Resilient Landscapes and Livelihoods Project, the Bank is identifying biodiversity “hotspots” – areas of high biodiversity value that are in danger due to land degradation and other pressures. We will support the government in working with communities to establish so-called green corridors – strips of continuous, native vegetation that will link fragmented forests and help restore watersheds where biodiversity can flourish. The corridors will also support livelihoods, including beekeeping, a flourishing industry in Ethiopia.

    The Coastal & Biodiversity Management Project in Guinea-Bissau helped establish the autonomous Institute for Biodiversity and Protected Areas (IBAP), to manage the country’s network of protected areas and endangered species. The project helped conserve 480,000 hectares of its coastal zone (13 percent of the territory), together with local communities. These protected areas are considered national assets and are intended to form the backbone of a future tourism industry.

    In Gabon, the World Bank helped enhance the conservation of biodiversity in parks, buffer zones, and forested wetlands. The projects expanded the knowledge and expertise of conservation-related entities and put in place an efficient monitoring system for wetland ecosystems. Income-generating activities have also reduced illegal fishing and poaching and promoted eco-responsible behavior in adjacent communities. These efforts contributed to the addition of nine natural sites making up 2.8 million hectares to the RAMSAR-classified sites.

    Last Updated: Apr 16, 2020

  • Multi-stakeholder partnerships are an important aspect of the World Bank’s environmental engagement as they pool expertise, access, and resources. These partnerships comprise the public sector, private sector, multi-lateral organizations and civil society to advance collective action on some of the world’s most pressing biodiversity challenges.

    The World Bank is the lead agency of the Global Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Crime Prevention for Sustainable Development, also known as the Global Wildlife Program (GWP), a $213 million grant program by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Launched in 2015, the GWP has projects across 29 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America & the Caribbean. The program focuses on designing and implementing national strategies to help countries combat illegal wildlife trafficking, secure wildlife habitats, and promote wildlife-based economies.

    The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) launched in 2010 brings together Interpol, the CITES SecretariatWorld Customs Union and UNODC with the World Bank to promote effective law enforcement nationally and internationally in support of sustainable development and equitable benefit-sharing for the proceeds from sustainable natural resource management. The ICCWC also provides training in investigative techniques to judges, lawyers, and customs and wildlife officials worldwide.

    The Global Program on Sustainability (GPS), is housed at the World Bank and seeks to expand the application of a `sustainability’ lens to decision-making in developing countries. GPS builds on a decade of experience from the Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) partnership, which has worked with over 20 countries to build natural capital accounts and use them in development decisions. GPS will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by supporting developing countries’ efforts to manage their natural capital sustainably.

    Last Updated: Apr 16, 2020