International Cooperation and Development

Ecosystems and biodiversity

Biodiversity and resilient ecosystems are essential to sustainable development, especially when it comes to issues such as food and nutrition security, access to health and water, good governance and peacebuilding. Maintaining biodiversity and ecosystems services is crucial to reduce poverty as well as the risks of natural disasters. We therefore act at all levels to help fight unsustainable practices that are threatening biodiversity and ecosystems around the world. Our action in that field is in line with the 15th sustainable development goal (SDG15) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Our approach

Growth that depletes resources is not sustainable as around 70% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend directly on biodiversity to survive. Depleted resources can lead to civil unrest, conflicts, migration etc. But development and biodiversity can be mutually reinforcing if handled sustainably. Ecosystem conservation and restoration need to be considered as opportunities and not obstacles to generate growth, create jobs, businesses, and reduce poverty, through a green economy. This is the overall aim of our EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 and related flagship initiatives and action plans.

EU biodiversity strategy

In 2011, the EU adopted an ambitious strategy that sets out 6 targets to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU and to help stop global biodiversity loss by 2020. These 6 targets are:

  • Protect species and habitats
  • Maintain and restore ecosystems
  • Achieve more sustainable agriculture and forestry
  • Make fishing more sustainable and seas healthier
  • Combat invasive alien species
  • Help stop the loss of global biodiversity

The strategy translates at EU level our international commitment to the Aichi targets (2011-2020), which aim to address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, to safeguard and enhance the benefits of biodiversity, and to improve capacities worldwide.

EU Biodiversity for Life

A new international milestone was reached in 2012 at the 11th UN CBD meeting in Hyderabad, India, where it was decided to substantially increase international biodiversity-related funding. The Hyderabad commitment foresaw an initial doubling of total biodiversity-related funding to developing countries by 2015 and at least maintaining this level by 2020.

Between 2007 and 2015, we invested €1.67 billion of development funds in biodiversity-related projects. As a result of the Hyderabad commitment, most of this funding was released after 2012 and we developed several multidisciplinary flagship initiatives since then, as part of our thematic ‘Global Public Goods and Challenges’ programme.

One of these is the EU ‘Biodiversity for Life’ (B4Life) initiative, launched in 2014, which fully integrates biodiversity and ecosystem conservation with socioeconomic development and poverty eradication, through an innovative cross-cutting approach. B4Life operates in 3 priority areas:

  • Good governance for a sustainable management of natural resources
  • Ecosystem conservation for food security and sustainable rural development
  • Ecosystem-based solutions towards a green economy

B4Life also specifically addresses the wildlife crises linked to increasing illegal trafficking.

Our financial instruments

EU total funding for biodiversity through international development cooperation reached €1.67 billion in the decade up to 2016, with a boost happening in 2012 with the Hyderabad commitment.

For the funding period 2014-2020, we have earmarked up to €1 billion for biodiversity and ecosystems, including wildlife conservation. The biodiversity component of development projects in other sectors, like agriculture and food, security, energy etc. increases that figure.

We fund biodiversity-related development cooperation activities mainly via 2 types of financial instruments:

  • Our geographical instruments, such as the European Development Fund (EDF), the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) or the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) help us implement our biodiversity strategy at national and regional level.
  • We also address biodiversity and ecosystems issues via our thematic programme ‘Global Public Goods and Challenges’ (GPGC), which addresses issues that are not priorities under geographical instruments or issues common to groups of countries not belonging to a single region.

Protected areas

The largest share of our investments in biodiversity is used to support protected areas. These funds are provided through bilateral cooperation with our partner countries our through grants to international and local NGOs managing protected areas.

For the past 30 years, we have focused on enabling our partner countries to create, manage, and maintain key protected areas because well-managed protected areas bring many benefits, such as:

  • reduced rates of habitat loss and maintained levels of species populations
  • preservation of key ecosystem services and fostering of sustainable livelihoods
  • sustainable economic benefits through tourism and innovative SMEs
  • improved security for communities living in conflict-affected areas
  • wildlife protection in fragile countries affected by illegal trafficking
  • countering growing pressures on natural resources
  • better water retention and access to water in dry areas
  • increased pool of plants and resources for potentially new medicines
  • mitigation effects on climate change and consequently less risks of natural disasters

As protected areas in developing countries require sustained political commitment and financial support, public-private partnerships (the PPP model) have proven successful in countries where government capacities are limited. PPP agreements grant private partners a stronger and clearer mandate as well as greater decisional independence and financial flexibility to manage protected areas. Private partners also act as a lever for raising other sources of funding.