Reaction to UK £3bn commitment to biodiversity: ‘Dependence on planet for everything is coming to the top of the political agenda’

The funding comes from the £11.6bn allocated by the UK government for international climate finance

Responsible investment commentators have welcomed the government’s announcement to commit at £3bn to supporting nature and biodiversity, highlighting that for too long this wasn’t considered part of the climate change crisis.

However, asset owners have also said further steps must be taken, such as removing subsidies and tightenting regulation, need to be taken to ensure a real impact is made on the health of the planet.

On Monday 11 January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK will commit at least £3bn to climate change solutions that ‘protect and restore nature and biodiversity over five years’.

In a statement ahead of the One Planet Summit, a virtual gathering of around 30 government officials and heads of international organisations, Johnson said: “We will not achieve our goals on climate change, sustainable development or preventing pandemics if we fail to take care of the natural world that provides us with the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.”

The funding comes from the £11.6bn allocated by the UK government for international climate finance. An example of a programme that will be supported is the Blue Planet Fund, set up by the Conservatives to protect marine environments, strengthen marine science and encourage sustainable fishing.

See also: – 11 finance firms sign biodiversity pledge

Organised by France, the UN and the World Bank, the One Planet Summit addressed the issues of protecting ecosystems, agroecology, sustainable food, biodiversity and deforestation. It was attended by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, among others.

“Biodiversity represents the natural capital of the world, yet exploitation, pollution and climate change are bringing irreversible damage to ecosystems,” the UN said ahead of the summit.

At the Climate Ambition Summit in December last year many countries, including the UK, made commitments to help align with the Paris Agreement ahead of the COP26 conference in Glasgow this November. But UK business secretary and this year’s COP26 president Alok Sharma said, “Have we done enough to put the world on track to limit warming to 1.5C and protect people and nature from the effects of climate change? We must be honest with ourselves – the answer to that is currently no.”

In the statement today, Sharma said: “We have seen ambitious commitments from across the world to net zero targets to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. But targets can only be met through action. We must preserve nature and our biodiversity, and move more quickly from coal to clean power.

“It is fantastic to see billions of pounds pledged today to support efforts to reduce deforestation and degradation, and to accelerate the transition to clean energy. By working together, on the road to COP26, we can make faster progress towards a sustainable future for our planet.”

Reaction

Tim Cockerill, investment director at Rowan Dartington and ESG Clarity editorial panellist

“Although this funding is not new money it very encouraging to see clear links now being made between nature and the health of the planet. For too long the loss of biodiversity wasn’t seen as part of the climate crisis and the interconnected nature of all things. Slowly the realisation of our dependence on the planet for everything and the damage we have done is coming to the top of the political agenda.”

See also: – The interconnected nature of all things

Esmé van Herwijnen, senior responsible investment analyst at EdenTree Investment Management 

“Biodiversity is under threat. This cannot be tackled by business alone, and biodiversity restoration will need significant public investment and more public-private partnerships. The UK’s announcement financially to support nature conservation is a first step in that direction and will also be key to achieving its net-zero ambitions given the close links between biodiversity and climate.”

Henry Boucher, deputy CIO and co-portfolio manager of the Food & Agriculture Opportunities fund at Sarasin & Partners 

“We cautiously welcome this serious financial commitment and further encouraging statement by the UK government to fund climate change solutions that protect and restore nature and biodiversity. £3bn over five years sounds a lot but the commitments needed by governments around the world to achieve the stated aims on climate and biodiversity are immense – according to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), governments collectively provide $500bn each year in environmentally damaging subsidies.

“An unsustainable economy is in no one’s long-term interests, and removing these subsidies and introducing much tighter regulation are the larger next steps needed to begin to reduce ongoing damage and create a fair system to manage the use of limited natural capital. This announcement creates hope for much larger commitments by global governments at the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November.”

Earth Charter

Meanwhile, also launched at the One Planet Summit was the Prince of Wales’ ‘Terra Carta’, which aims to direct $10bn to ‘green causes’ by 2022.

The charter commits signatories to achieving net zero by 2050 or sooner, an contains actions businesses can take to ensure a green transition. Supporters of the initiative include BlackRock, Fidelity International and HSBC.

In a statement prince Charles said: “I can only encourage, in particular, those in industry and finance to provide practical leadership to this common project, as only they are able to mobilize the innovation, scale and resources that are required to transform our global economy.”

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Natasha Turner

Natasha was global editor at ESG Clarity, part of Mark Allen Financial, and a financial journalist for seven years. She has been shortlisted for Story of the Year and Investment Journalist of the Year...