How should multilateral development banks implement their Joint Statement on Nature, People and Planet?

The UNFCCC meeting in Glasgow last November, COP26, produced a large number of declarations, including two major ones focused on the role of nature in addressing the climate crisis. Unfortunately, such statements do not always lead to real action. In a letter to nine multilateral development bank (MDB) presidents, BIC and 17 other NGOs call on the institutions to fulfill their commitments and provide six key steps to strengthen and implement their Joint Statement.

The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, issued November 2, 2021 by 141 countries covering over 90 percent of Earth’s forests, commits to strengthened efforts to “conserve forests and other terrestrial ecosystems and accelerate their restoration” and to “significantly increase finance…to enable sustainable agriculture, sustainable forest management, forest conservation and restoration, and support for Indigenous Peoples and local communities.” On the same day came the Joint Statement by the Multilateral Development Banks: Nature, People and Planet. The statement, made by nine MDBs, commits them “to further mainstream nature into [their] policies [and] operations,” and “to support countries to secure high ambition for implementing nature-based solutions (NbS) to climate change.” 

These two statements, if backed by action, could help realize the potential that nature offers to address the climate crisis. Studies show that natural climate solutions (NCS) can provide over one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2°C. Similarly, NCS are highly effective for climate change adaptation. However, these solutions remain severely underfunded, with less than three percent of financing for climate mitigation going to NCS, and only 1.5 percent of public finance going towards adaptation.

Clearly, there is a need for firm commitments to drastically increase public finance in this area — especially from the financial institutions. Yet neither statement provides commitments for increased funding. We also note that countries made a similar declaration, the New York Declaration on Forests, in 2014. It promised to halve deforestation by 2020; instead, loss of primary tropical forest in signatory countries rose 12.9 percent from 6.3 million hectares for 2010-2014 to 7.1 million hectares for 2016-2020.

We don’t accept the prospect that the Glasgow declarations end with similar results.  Accordingly, BIC along with 17 other civil society organizations, wrote to MDB presidents to recommend six ways to strengthen and implement their declaration — matching the six areas addressed in the joint statement:

1. Leadership: Produce institutional strategic approaches to further mainstream biodiversity into analysis, assessments, advice, investments, and operations by end of 2022, and accompanying action plans by end of 2023, through consultative processes that provide for stakeholder engagement, including marginalized groups (e.g. women, persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendants, LGBTQI+, youth).

2. Foster 'nature positive' investments, in conjunction with communities, to halt and reverse the decline of biodiversity by 2030: Commit to halt investments or budget support that directly or indirectly promote sectors such as fossil fuels, industrial livestock, or activities or infrastructure that infringe on ecologically or culturally valued areas. Strengthen safeguards and safeguards implementation, especially stakeholder engagement, and work alongside communities during project design and implementation. This point is critical to advance this goal.

3. Foster national and regional level synergies: To achieve this goal, MDBs should use their leverage and push governments to increase funding and promote sustainable forest management, forest conservation and restoration, agroecology, and protection of forest stewards, while eliminating private abuse of public goods.   

4. Value nature to guide decision making: Use existing and new tools and metrics for public and private sector clients to better value, sustainably manage, protect, and restore nature. MDBs and their clients should also apply a strategic, spatially explicit approach to landscape planning and the polluter pays principle to align financial incentives with nature’s value.

5. Provide reporting and transparency: Enhance public reporting on and accountability for  MDB efforts and initiatives to mainstream biodiversity and NCS in analyses, strategies, plans, programs, metrics, and operations.

6. Financing: Progressively raise the percentage of concessional finance, including grants, provided to public sector clients that are targeted to achieve countries’ commitments to the international climate and biodiversity conventions in a sustained and coherent manner. The absence of a specific commitment in this area was a major disappointment of the Joint Statement.

For more information, please read the CSO letter and CSO comments on the joint statement.