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Bright Blue and the Conservative Environment Network have launched a new report Saving global nature: greening UK Official Development Assistance which calls on the Government to allocate £1bn per year for global nature conservation through a new fund, paid for through the UK’s £14bn per year international aid budget. 

The threats facing nature are growing, including from the illegal wildlife trade, resource extraction, land use change, infrastructure development and climate change. Global nature is in crisis and this is undermining poverty alleviation efforts, human welfare, and economic development worldwide. Habitat loss, the erosion of ecosystem services, climate change, and pollution are exacerbating poverty and erasing or increasing the fragility of development gains around the world. Protecting and restoring nature is essential for securing development, particularly in the poorest countries.

The UK via the Department for International Development (DFID) is a world leader in poverty alleviation and humanitarian assistance. Now we urgently need to extend these huge achievements to sustainable development through environmental protection and the support of biodiversity and habitats. There is a groundswell of public opinion for action to conserve and restore nature, particularly after the huge popularity of the BBC’s Blue Planet II.

The new global nature conservation fund would, among other initiatives, establish and support new ‘Commonwealth Parks’ with at least £200 million per year; scale up the existing Darwin Initiative and increase its funding to at least £100 million per year; protect critical conservations corridors for iconic mammal, bird and marine species with at least £200 million per year; fund the restoration, conservation or enhancement of natural ecosystems at the landscape scale with at least £250 million per year; and establish ‘The UK Conservation Trust’ with at least £100 million per year to finance global nature conservation and sustainable livelihood creation projects in developing countries.

Nature should become a key filter for the allocation and prioritisation of UK international aid funding. Developing countries with habitats and biodiversity of global or regional significance should be actively prioritised, particularly in the Commonwealth. Development assistance can support a wide range of global nature conservation activities, from better enforcement to sustainable livelihood creation.

Commenting Ben Caldecott, Senior Associate Fellow of Bright Blue and lead author of the report, said:

“The natural world is facing unparalleled threats. The fragility of the environment not only threatens the flora and fauna for which we are custodians, but the future prosperity of communities around the world. Given the UK’s substantial international aid budget and expertise, there is a compelling case for the UK to lead international efforts to conserve global nature. The greater focus and funding for global nature conservation through the UK’s international aid budget, particularly through charismatic UK-branded projects and programmes, will capture the imagination and ensure public support for the international aid budget.”

“The UK spends approximately 0.5% of the now approximately £14 billion annual UK ODA budget on nature. In stark contrast, Germany and the USA are two of the largest funders of global nature conservation, providing on average around US$600-$700 million per annum. Our country has a rich heritage in the field of natural history and nature conservation, exemplified by Charles Darwin, Dame Jane Goodall, and Sir David Attenborough. We need to step up and make a much more substantial contribution than we do currently.”

Commenting Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, said:

“Our fate is inextricably linked to the health of the planet, and the sheer scale of the damage we are doing to it is terrifying. Whole ecosystems are being destroyed, causing misery to some of the world’s poorest people who depend on them. Meanwhile species are being brought to the very brink of extinction in a global wildlife trade that breeds violence and corruption.

Britain’s record on overseas aid is a source of pride, but it surely makes no sense that only a fraction of the budget is spent protecting and restoring the natural world. This timely report makes a brilliant and compelling case for using our ODA funding to tackle this, the greatest battle of our age”

Commenting, Mark Rose, CEO of Fauna and Flora International, said:

“As Chief Executive of Fauna & Flora International, the world’s oldest international wildlife conservation organisation, I believe that this call to greatly increase UK investment in nature conservation worldwide is desperately needed and very timely. Wildlife and ecosystems are absolutely fundamental to human wellbeing, and it is vital that we reduce the severe threats to our natural world. The UK government has an excellent track record in spending effectively to reduce poverty, and has the capacity and expertise to ensure that this is extended to include nature.  I urge UK government and cross-party support for the broad proposal set out in this report.”

Commenting, Dr. John G. Robinson, Chief Conservation Officer at Wildlife Conservation Society, said:

“From Charles Darwin to Sir David Attenborough, the UK has led the world in the exploration and conservation of wildlife and the natural world.  Establishing this fund reasserts that leadership, at a time when biodiversity is under threat, natural resources are over-exploited, and natural capital is being lost — all of which undermine our ability to exist and thrive on this planet.”