Background & Aims: Biodiversity, climate, food and livelihoods are inextricably intertwined. To effectively address issues within the economy, nature and the climate emergency, we need to adopt a holistic and integrated approach to transform systems at scale. It is critically important to understand “trade offs” between economic growth and nature loss; in other words, how economic measures for biodiversity conservation can be achieved through the cooperation of government, finance and business sectors. We draw on international experience across biodiversity-reliant industries in order to shed light on China’s transformative development that embeds the value of nature in all economic decision-making.
Methods: Main approaches adopted in this research include desk review, comparative study, and categorization. Through the lens of momentums characterized by pluralization and marketization in the economic measures for biodiversity conservation on the global scale, wer analyzed 150 examples of nature-positive economic instruments applied across numerous industries in more than 30 countries. We classified these instruments into 8 categories: (1) Top-level Design, with commitments to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 using timetables and roadmaps; (2) Environmental Economic Accounting, e.g. UN-SEEA, GEP (Gross Ecosystem Product) and Natural Capital Protocol, etc.; (3) Ecological Transformation, especially in three key socio-economic systems: food, land and ocean use, infrastructure and built environments, energy and extractives; (4) Green Finance, outlined in classifications of both “Green Financing” and “Financing Green”; (5) Market Certification, with a focus on soft commodities, e.g. Eco-Label, Rainforest Alliance, etc., (6) Incentive Reform, including the traditional “Business As Usual” (BSU) replaced by No-Net-Loss and Nature-positive outlooks, harmful subsidies eliminated and redirected, and financial flows realigned; (7) Climate Synergy, the value of biodiversity mitigating and adapting to climate change embeded in all economic decision-making to ensure actions were within ecological thresholds; (8) Supportive Instruments, legal and administrative measures that are carried out to reinforce effectiveness of economic policy, e.g. ESG information disclosure and quotas, permits, and licensing. Furthermore, we analyzed and compare the similarities and differences of countries adopting the above economic measures.
Results: Across countries, we found the following trends of economic measures for biodiversity conservation: (1) Intensification. Previous thought that “economic growth is prioritized over ecological conservation” had been challenged by “economy and ecology are put on an equal footing” (Ecology Priority). More and more emphasis had been placed on synergy among government, finance and business to achieve transformative change towards carbon neutral, nature positive and equitable development standards; (2) Differentiation. In the three traditional policy instruments, countries in the developing world relied mainly on public funding and finance from the government sector while developed countries use the private sector market as the main channel for conservation resources; (3) Pluralization. Since the value of nature is multi-dimensional, governments need to use a variety of economic instruments rather than a single policy to achieve biodiversity conservation objectives. Economic policies should bridge connections to livelihood and well-being, climate change, and resource management; (4) Marketization. Fostering the role of markets in ecological conservation solved issues such as a lack of public funding and inconsistencies between financial and taxation systems in meeting environmental goals. Without this, economic problems such as market failure, excessive use of natural assets, unclear property rights, high transaction costs, and asymmetry in supply and demand result.
Conclusions: A combined approach of “Top-down” and “Bottom-up” actions are proposed to synergize government, finance and business sectors. We encourage that institutions take advantage of opportunities arising from the "Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework as an internationally overarching framework providing platform and metrics for coordinated national actions. This will expedite application of policy portfolios on global scale and promote the integration of economic and environmental policies, of which market incentives remain at the core.