1BIOFIN Global BIOFIN Global Workshop on ‘Sustainable Production and Consumption’ starts at IIM Bangalore on ‘Sustainable Production and Consumption’ starts at IIM Bangalore


Acclaimed film maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan inaugurates the round table on ‘Creative Sustainability: As Artistes See It’, hosted by IIMB, on January 22. (L-R) Theatre person Sanjna Kapoor, IFA Founder Anmol Vellani, IPR Chair at IIMB and Round Table Chair Prof. A. Damodaran, IIMB Dean Faculty Prof. Ishwar Murthy, danseuse Sharon Lowen and Bharatanatyam dancer Alarmel Valli.

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Global voices at virtual roundtable on bioconservation say political will is a must to achieve this

Prof. A. Damodaran from the Economics and Social Sciences area at IIMB, presided over a virtual round table on ‘A Bioconservation Agenda to Avoid Zoonotic Pandemics of the Future’ on July 29.

The panel featured eminent speakers from India and abroad, including Kenneth Petersen, Sr Vice-President, OSI Group, LLC; Jamison Ervin, Manager, Nature for Development Program UNDP, New York; Jigmet Thakpa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Govt. of India; Craig Hoover, Executive Vice-President, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Washington DC; Dr Rajesh Gopal, Secretary General, Global Tiger Forum; Dr Claude Garcia, Sr Scientist, CIRAD, Montpellier, France; Ridhima Solanki, Wildlife Researcher, India; and Mohnish Kapoor, Global Tiger Forum.

In his opening remarks, Prof. Damodaran described the context of the round table as “unusual” because five months into Covid-19, the focus of the world remains fixed on epidemiology and immunology. “What we don’t talk about much in the mainstream media is why Covid-19 happened. While conversations on the fringes have been about the role of conservation and the pandemic, this round table should bring such conversations, about the ‘why’ of Covid-19, to the mainstream,” he observed.

Conservationists like Jamison Ervin, Dr Claude Garcia, Dr Rajesh Gopal, Mohnish Kapoor, Craig Hoover, Riddhima Solanki, policymakers like Jigmet Thakpaand a food safety expert like Kenneth Petersen, who were on the panel,examined the role of science and society in understanding zoonotic pandemics.

‘Caught unawares’?

Jigmet Thakpa, who has played a key role in saving the snow leopards of Ladakh, responding to the question ‘are we surprised that a pandemic like Covid-19 happened considering the state of bioconservation in the world’, said while everyone were aware, they chose to ignore the threat. “As selfish human beings, we had no idea Nature would hit back and change the world. Exploiting and plundering natural resources, we have reached the state where we have come to eat anything that moves and thereby we have jumped into a sea of pathogens – viruses and bacteria – that can mutate and create havoc on our immune system.” Alleging that some rich use exotic animals for food and medicine, he said “Nature has warned us to mend our ways. We must heed this message and learn to live with Nature in harmony.”

Claude Garcia, who has done extensive field work in India, said Ebola and SARS had given us an inkling of what was coming. “We only didn’t know from where it would come from.” He said what surprised him was the way the world responded to the pandemic. “This is the first time that humanity went into lockdown in a relatively short time.”

Dr. Rajesh Gopal, former chief conservator of Kanha Tiger Reserve and current Secretary-General of Global Tiger Forum, remarked that what surprised him was certainly not the outbreak of the corona virus, but the lack of will among governments across the world to seriously address issues of climate change and conservation. “Unless the centrality of green spaces is enshrined, this won’t stop. Where is GDP now? We are struggling for survival.”

Jamison Ervin said while zoonotic pandemics are rare and unpredictable, we are not uninformed. “We know that habitat destruction increases our risk but we – as individuals, as communities, as governments – are not prepared to change the conditions that make the next pandemic inevitable,” she said.

Riddhima Solanki, a field ecologist, drew from her research background to argue that any policy needs strong baseline data, globally.“Research is important to develop policies and suggest mitigation measures to governments.”

State of food safety

Given the state of food safety associated with wet markets, Kenneth Petersen who responded to the question whether regulations can be put in place, first explained that the Covid-19 virus is not known to be transmitted through food or food packaging. “While it readily transmits from person to person, it isn’t difficult to kill in the environment unlike the hepatitis one. So, food safety standards organizations do not have much of a role to play in this pandemic.”

He went on to say that protocols cannot be easily and quickly put in place by organizations like Codex for Covid-19 as there is a price component to it.

Refusing to judge the cultural context of wet markets in South Asia, he said: “Surveillance or some sort of cultural change in terms of food safety should be the key.”

Green circular economies

One of the participants, who observed that there are a number of efforts into developing circular economies, wanted to know viable they are.

Responding, Jamison Ervin explained: “Green, circular, inclusive economies can certainly be viable – in certain circumstances. One challenge, however, is that they are operating within an unsustainable business-as-usual status quo environment that finances the destruction of nature more than 100 times more than it finances nature protection. A status quo that spends 5.3 trillion every year on fossil fuel subsidies. A status quo that produces hundreds of millions of tons of single-use plastic because it’s “cheaper” than alternatives. A status quo in which clearing 100,000 hectares of primary forest and putting 100,000 cattle for beef is “profitable”. So until we transform our finance system entirely, alternative economic solutions like green, circular economies, may face an uphill battle.”

CITES & its role

Craig Hoover, who said one of his fondest conservation memories is of spending a week looking for tigers in Corbett National Park in the state of Uttarakhand, explained the key features of the CITES agreement and its impact on wildlife trade. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. “CITES should be amended and its scope expanded. Covid-19 should be the wake-up call to create a new international regulatory regime,” Craig added.

Dr Rajesh Gopal argued that compliance within societies is also key to the success of agreements like CITES.

Convention on Biodiversity & Covid-19 response strategies

Jamison Ervin said the disruption caused by Covid-19 has made conservationists reconsider the CBD’s frameworks. “We need to mobilise much more radical efforts. We need a one-health approach that will raise planetary health. We need to be more nuanced in our thinking and sensitive to ecological tipping points like the collapse of the Great Barrier Reef. The CBD goals and targets are rooted in outdated frameworks. Covid-19 has shown us that our future is not secured. We must use this as an opportunity to better protect ourselves and develop sustainable economic models.”

Prof. Damodaran said that unless we are willing to take a hard look at our relationship with the planet, we are in for a difficult future. “The biggest challenge for CITES and CBD is to see whether they can look at their structure to include human life and safety,” he added.

Wildlife trafficking

Jigmet Thakpa said global, regional and local wildlife trade regulations need to be strengthened and strictly implemented and every species codified. “As a forester, I believe all wildlife trade must be banned. I know this is an extreme view but I cannot understand how wildlife trade can ever be sustainable! Conviction rate for illegal trade is very low. In India, it is less than 5 per cent. The punishment for poaching is 25,000 and five years in prison. This has to be made more stringent. We need a dedicated court for illegal wildlife trade with speedy trials and high conviction rates.”

While Craig Hoover agreed that international laws on poaching and trafficking need to be strengthened, he argued that we cannot regulate our way out of crisis. “We need to address all aspects of the trade chain — educating consumers, providing alternative livelihoods,etc.”

Mohnish Kapoor, from Global Tiger Forum, said poaching continues to rise in South-East Asia and hoped for harmonisation between local and international laws and strengthening of enforcement. “Covid-19 has given us the opportunity to ensure that zoonotic pandemics are not repeated by eliminating wildlife crime with political will at the highest level.”

Role of technology

Riddhima Solanki said real-time proactive surveillance, using smart tools, can help. “Forest departments everywhere are fighting lone battles. They need technology support and capacity building.”

Claude Garcia said the problem with the pandemic is with decision-making of governments. “Culture, demography, governance, technology are drivers of decision-making. The next big game-changer is going to be our decision making — alone or with AI.”

The round table had 130 participants.

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Bengaluru: “The effort is to see that biodiversity does not suffer from financialization. Resource mobilization strategies need to be adopted in innovative and effective ways to conserve biodiversity, contrary to some people’s opinion that biodiversity should not be priced,” said Prof. A Damodaran, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion’s IPR Chair at IIM Bangalore, in his welcome address at the Biodiversity Finance Plan (BIOFIN) International Workshop on ‘Sustainable Production and Consumption and Novel Economic Instruments for Biodiversity Conservation’, on November 17 (Friday), 2017, at IIM Bangalore.

Led by Prof. Damodaran, Chairperson, Technical Advisory Group, GoI-UNDP BIOFIN India Initiative, the two-day workshop set off with global and Indian experts discussing the resource gap in financing biodiversity conservation and charting out a strategic roadmap for an effective biodiversity finance plan. Prof. Damodaran was a member of the high level panel of the Convention on Biological Diversity on biodiversity financing strategy that highlighted the importance of the biodiversity financing initiative that since then has taken off in the shape of the global BIOFIN project.

Professor G. Raghuram, Director, IIM Bangalore, delivered a special address. “India is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of biodiversity. We must make the best use of economic, financial and market-based instruments to conserve it as the need for conservation is vital; it is also a public policy issue. We need to focus on people’s needs.”

Dr. Rathin Roy, Member, Economic Advisory Council & Director, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), said that the inspiration behind BIOFIN was to make sense of biodiversity in the public space. “One has to exercise caution when things go up, because that’s when things go down too,” he remarked.

Markus Lehmann, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Montreal, stressed on the Government of India’s role in funding such initiatives. “Traditionally, financing for biodiversity was done from a repair perspective. But now the focus is: production and consumption should take place in a way that biodiversity is not harmed.”

Verena Linneweber, Deputy Country Director, United Nations Development Program, spoke of how biodiversity is taken for granted since it is available at no cost. “This has to change as biodiversity conservation is vital for economic sustainability as well,” she said, adding that India is key to meeting conservation challenges at a global level. “India is a global champion of biodiversity conservation. I hope this conference leads to productive exchange of best practices between representative countries.”

Dr. Sujata Arora, Advisor, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change & National Focal Point, Convention on Biological Diversity, India, contextualized the workshop from the Government of India perspective. “We need to reduce biodiversity loss while meeting sustainable development goals – it is fundamental to our own survival. Conservation has local as well as global value. It has multiple benefits including poverty alleviation.”

She went on to speak about management and policy development for biodiversity conservation. “Resource mobilization and investment are vital to implement a strategic plan. There is a huge gap between what is currently being spent and what is required. India is a megadiverse country, so conservation of biodiversity is a priority. Hence, the ministry has partnered with UNDP for the BIOFIN project. We are on the verge of initiating a nationally appropriate biodiversity plan, hence this conference has started at a convenient time. We need to better understand what kind of solutions will succeed in this country and aim to leverage economic instruments,” she explained.

Onno van den Heuvel, Manager, Global BIOFIN Programme, focussed his talk on BIOFIN in India. He said that the Indian Government is driving programs like BIOFIN, and that is one of the indicators of the success of such programs.

The introductory talks led the way to Session 1, ‘Overview Session: Biodiversity Finance Initiative –Novel Economic Instruments and Sustainable Production and Consumption’, which was co-chaired by Dr. Rathin Roy and Onno van den Heuvel.

Markus Lehmann began the discussion by highlighting the strategic plans/initiatives on biodiversity financing, the solutions for sustainable production and consumption. “From the financial perspective, we must aim for resource mobilizations, report funding need gaps and priorities to prepare a national finance plan for biodiversity. We must devise new and innovative financial mechanisms.”

He also discussed the safeguards needed for financial mechanisms and said that is necessary to promote positives and avoid or mitigate negative effects on biodiversity and livelihoods. He concluded with discussing the COP 13 Roadmap towards post-2020 global biodiversity framework – how it can be further strengthened. “This workshop will be a stepping stone for future initiatives,” he said.

Tracey Cumming, BIOFIN Technical Advisor for African Region, UNDP, gave a bird’s-eye view of the menu of options of financial and economical solutions, the mandate and what can be done to achieve it. “We need to change the behaviour of producers and consumers, and channel additional resources and funds into biodiversity management,” she suggested.

Touching upon regulatory and economic tools, she said economic instruments like tax incentives, impact investing, payments for ecosystem services, green banking standards, using insurance premiums to change land use behaviour of farmers, fees and fines, and certifications, could raise revenue and reduce burden on governments. “The disadvantage of economic instruments is unpredictable results, and they need sophisticated institutions to be implemented. But the key to success is for institutions to work hand-in-hand,” she added.

Prof. A Damodaran related his experiences of working with economic instruments and explained how these instruments have evolved over the years. He also emphasized the need of having safeguards in plugging conservation deficits and building additional resources. “We need to mitigate mismatch between mechanical and biological solutions. Informed decision making is needed and not value judgement,” he said.

All the panellists agreed that short term costs will have long term benefits.

The international workshop is being organized under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) in partnership with the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal, BIOFIN Global, the National Biodiversity Authority, the UNDP and Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. The workshop seeks to address the following issues: how biodiversity finance solutions can contribute to sustainable consumption and production, and what the main biodiversity finance solutions are, that have demonstrated a positive impact on sustainable consumption and production.

Participants in the workshop includes representatives of BIOFIN member countries, representatives of 22 states in India, international organizations, academics and policy makers dealing with issues relevant to the theme of the workshop. It is envisaged that the deliberations of the workshop would result in providing strategic policy direction for the preparation of an effective Biodiversity Finance Plan.

The other main sessions of the workshop will include: Current Economic Instruments Utilized in BIOFIN Countries; Landscape or Biome-based Approaches to Biodiversity Conservation – The State of Art; Market Access Instruments to Enhance Sustainable Production and Consumption, and Mainstreaming Development Programmes for Sustainable Production and Consumption.

The workshop will feature more international experts such as Dr. B. Meenakumari, Chairperson, National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), India, Dr. Rita Pandey, NIPFP, India, Dr. J Soundrapandi, NBA/UNDP-India, Leila Makhmetova, Legal Expert, Kazakhstan, Muhktar Djumaliev, Adviser of Minister of Economy, Member of PAGE team, Kyrgyzstan, Lira Zholdubaeva, National BIOFIN Coordinator, UNDP, Kyrgyzstan, Dr. Orapan Nabang Chang, Chief Technical Advisor, BIOFIN Thailand, Niran Nirannoot, National BIOFIN Coordinator, United Nations Development Programme, Bangkok, Thailand, Dr. Giridhar Kinhal, Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, India, Yrsaliev Bakyt, Deputy Director, Forestry Department, State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry, Kyrgyzstan, Dr. U Sankar, Honorary Professor, Madras School of Economics (MSE), Chennai, Massimiliano Riva, Policy Specialist, Innovative Finance, UNDP, New York, USA, Dr. Shigefumi Okumura, Director, Future Corporation, Japan, Chimed-Ochir Bazarsad, BIOFIN Lead Expert, Mongolia, Dana Mamanova, Tax Policy Specialist , Kazakhstan, Dr. TR Manoharan, FSC National Representative for India, Vinod Kumar Jindal (ICoAS), Joint Secretary (SBM) & National Mission Director, Swachh Bharat Urban, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, India, Dr. David Meyers, UNDP Global BIOFIN Team, Ravindra Singh, Senior Advisor, GIZ, New Delhi, India, Odjargal Davaajav, Officer, Division of Clean Technology, Investment and Production, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Mongolia, Anabelle Plantilla, Project Manager of BIOFIN, Philippiness, and Dr. Amita Prasad, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, India.