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Exclusive Interview with Ani Dasgupta, President and CEO of WRI: Leveraging private capital to meet the financing gap for nature and the climate

Interview with Aniruddha (Ani) Dasgupta: Leveraging private capital to meet the financing gap for nature and the climate

Aniruddha (Ani) Dasgupta is a Council Member of CCICED. As President and CEO, he leads the World Resource Insititute (WRI) to improve the lives of all people and ensure that nature can thrive. In the interview, he emphasized the importance of synergizing the segmented global conversations on climate and nature and the urgency to close the financing gap on both crises.

Q: What are the most critical environmental and development issues today?

The climate and biodiversity crises are two of the most significant environmental challenges our world faces today – and they are deeply interconnected. One crisis cannot be solved without the other.

They are not two different conversations, either. Both are part of a shared goal to ensure people can thrive with nature. After all, the world cannot get to net-zero emissions without nature playing its part.

Climate models assume that the remaining nature is intact and can continue sequestering carbon, but our land and oceans have already sequestered over 56% of human-caused emissions between 1850 and 2019. If the world continues its pattern of destroying nature and allowing deforestation to continue, the path to net zero will be much steeper, like an almost impossible hill to climb.​

At the same time, both the climate and biodiversity crises have enormous implications for the widening inequality gap. Poor and vulnerable countries and communities will always be the most impacted, as we’ve also seen with the COVID-19 pandemic. Poor countries and communities have the least capacity to adapt.

Q: Chinese policy efforts are increasingly leaning towards synergizing efforts on addressing climate change and biodiversity loss. Is this also your impression of the two critical issues at the global scale?

I notice a massive disconnect in how we solve the two issues. The world needs to find a way to link the two agendas much more closely and ensure the climate and biodiversity experts and negotiators are talking to each other. For example, the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, a crucial outcome of the upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) conference, is a vital opportunity for countries to reflect on their climate and biodiversity ambitions and enhance collaboration.

Our global economy is still mainly built on unsustainable practices that harm nature and the climate. Yet, a recent World Economic Forum (WEF) report showed that at least US$44 trillion – about half – of the global economy is highly or moderately dependent on nature.

The most critical challenge over the next century will be transitioning to a new global economy that values and is good for people, climate, and nature. We need to create a new bio-economy that values nature and creates well-paying jobs for people to ensure that nature can thrive and continue supporting livelihoods.

Q: Biodiversity finance is at the front and center of the CBD conference. How shall we address the financing challenge?

It is clear that commitments to protect biodiversity cannot be implemented if the finance is not available in the first place. But we are facing a huge funding gap for biodiversity: US$4.1 trillion is needed from now to 2050, translating to at least US$536 billion of annual financing. We must find innovative ways to direct much more investment into biodiversity.

Still, we cannot count on countries to provide all the finance needed to combat the biodiversity crisis. Historically, climate finance flows have been dwarfing flows into nature. Even then, developed countries have failed to meet their commitment to climate finance – US$100 billion per year – for developing countries for at least two consecutive years.

As demonstrated, public funds alone cannot meet the financing gap for either climate or biodiversity. It leaves us no choice but to take a severe look at leveraging private capital.

The financial sector is critical in mobilizing financial resources and aligning financial flows to support the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and its effective implementation. Last year, WRI launched the Partnership of Biodiversity and Finance (PBF) to encourage financial institutions to integrate biodiversity consideration into their investment and trade strategies, particularly in emerging markets. Already, we see many interesting case studies.

Q: What’s the role of China in closing the financing gaps on climate and biodiversity?

As the world’s largest emitter and a megadiverse country, China plays a pivotal role in addressing both these challenges. Last October, at the first part of the CBD CoP15, China pledged US$233 million to create the Kunming Biodiversity Fund, an important start to mobilize more funding for biodiversity conservation.

China is also a leader in South-South cooperation and a significant provider of finance for infrastructure at home and abroad. Through its investments, China has a huge opportunity to promote nature-based solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation while promoting biodiversity and sharing lessons learned across the global community.

 


Interview conducted by Ms. Hongqiao Liu, Independent Journalist and Consultant

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