Greater efforts needed to safeguard biodiversity


 07/12/2016 - The world must ramp up its efforts to use natural resources more sustainably and conserve biological diversity and the ecosystems on which we depend for human life, the OECD today told participants at the COP13 Convention on Biological Diversity in Cancun, Mexico.


Countries are doing more to preserve biodiversity, including taxing harmful activities, paying farmers and landowners to work in more biodiversity friendly ways, and using biodiversity offsets to compensate for damage from activities like farming, forestry and mining. Yet billions of dollars are still spent each year subsidising fossil fuels and agriculture that put pressure on natural services like water purification, climate regulation and insect pollination.


A new OECD report, Biodiversity Offsets: Effective Design and Implementation, highlights that while at least 60 countries now have laws or policies requiring biodiversity offsets or some form of conservation programme to compensate for projects that damage nature, and their value is growing by 10% a year, they still only amount to around USD 3 billion. 

While environment-related taxes totalled USD 785 billion in OECD countries in 2014, mostly from energy and transport taxes, only USD 6 billion were taxes related to biodiversity.


In total, the world spends approximately USD 50 billion a year, mainly from general government budgets, on protecting biodiversity against nearly half a trillion dollars spent a year subsidising fossil fuels and more than USD 100 billion a year on potentially harmful agricultural subsidies.


“Governments need to seriously scale up their efforts to conserve biodiversity,” said OECD Environment Director Simon Upton. “That includes phasing out incentives harmful to biodiversity and making more use of instruments like biodiversity offsets positive incentives. It also means mainstreaming biodiversity objectives into all national and sector policies including agriculture, fishing, forestry and tourism.”


The planet has already lost more than a third of its terrestrial biodiversity and according to OECD research is on course to lose another 10% of land species by 2050 from 2010 levels due to changes in land use and management, pollution, climate change, and the loss of wetlands, forests and other ecosystems. Around a fifth of mangroves and coral is also dead or disappeared due to ocean pollution.


Almost 100 biodiversity offset programmes are operating worldwide in countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. Typical examples are locally designed conservation programmes set up near mining or oil extraction operations or paper mills.


The report notes that the environmental effectiveness of offset programmes depends on ensuring projects are well designed, addressing risks and putting in place monitoring and remedies against poor performance or non-compliance.


OECD work on biodiversity:

Biodiversity Offsets:

OECD at COP13:


For further information, or to speak to one of the report’s authors, journalists should contact the OECD Media Office,+33 1 45 24 97 00.


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