Side Event Discusses Subsidies and Incentives for Biodiversity Conservation

The session was held at the fourth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation of the CBD in Nairobi.

On 23 May 2024, UNU-IAS co-organized a side event of the fourth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI 4) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nairobi. The session discussed how to implement Target 18 of the global Biodiversity Plan, which requires Parties to reduce incentives and subsidies harmful to biodiversity, and scale up positive incentives for its conservation and sustainable use.

Opening the session, Yosuke Kuramoto (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity) called for an end to financing deforestation and habitat degradation in agriculture, infrastructure or other environmentally harmful activities. 

Discussing the direct and indirect impacts of subsidies and incentives on biodiversity, Suneetha Subramanian (Research Fellow, UNU-IAS) shared preliminary insights from a survey conducted by UNU-IAS, the Yolda Initiative and the Biotrade Initiative to capture experiences and perspectives in socio-ecological production landscapes and seascapes (SEPLS). Subsidies and incentives can positively and negatively impact biodiversity, ecosystem integrity and the well-being of communities. Local stakeholders often struggle to compete with larger, state-supported players, particularly those engaged in monoculture practices. However, there are ongoing efforts to revitalize local economies, with communities exploring alternative vocations, such as ecotourism, based on their unique resources and ecosystems.

Engin Yilmaz (Executive Director, Yolda Initiative/Coordinator, AMNC) presented a case study on the impact of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on pastoralism in Europe. Noting the historical significance of pastoralism in shaping European landscapes, biodiversity and culture, he pointed out that CAP market mechanisms and trade liberalization had increased uncertainties in pastoral systems and contributed to territorial polarization.

A panel discussion emphasized the pivotal role of stakeholder engagement and bottom-up approaches in shaping the discourse on biodiversity conservation. Clemence Moinier (Environment and Climate Specialist, IFAD) discussed the dual nature of subsidies within the agricultural sector, highlighting that those targeting specific commodities often result in biodiversity loss and reduced dietary diversity due to production intensification. Lika Sasaki (Programme Management Office for BioTrade Initiative, UN Trade and Development) noted the complexity of determining subsidy impacts. She identified harmful subsidies as those promoting over-exploitation and environmentally damaging practices, while beneficial subsidies support conservation, sustainable resource use and local community inclusion. Balakrishna Pisupati (Head, Environmental Policy Unit, UNEP) stressed that local challenges should guide discussions on subsidies through a bottom-up approach.

The event was organized by UNU-IAS in partnership with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), the Alliance for Mediterranean Nature and Culture (AMNC), BioTrade Initiative and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).