Nature is both the origin and habitat of people, animals and plants. Healthy, diverse ecosystems provide us with air, water and raw materials of all types. They form the basis of our existence and are a prerequisite for economic development. This is why the SDGs are not just directed at people; the relationship between people and nature must be symbiotic to ensure quality of life for all (“one health”).
Recently, the coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown just how important this is. Because the outbreak of the pandemic is also a result of our exploitation of nature throughout the world. Around 70% of all emerging infectious diseases like Ebola, Zika and influenza are zoonoses (diseases that are transmitted from animal to human and vice versa). According to Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) figures, there are still around 1.7 million unidentified viruses in mammals and birds, of which a significant proportion could be transmissible to humans. As more intact ecosystems are destroyed, there are more opportunities for closer contact with these pathogens, which increases the likelihood of transmission. As a result, SDG 15 (“Life on land”) also aims to protect endangered animal species and terrestrial ecosystems. The disappearance of forests must cease, and they should be sustainably managed and preserved. The international community also wants to end the expansion of deserts, loss of biodiversity and degradation of soil.
Keeping as much nature intact as possible or restoring it is also crucial for climate protection. Forests, moors and soils are natural carbon sinks that can make an effective contribution to reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These so-called "nature-based solutions" are usually also significantly cheaper than technical methods in the fight against global warming, such as CO2 capture, for example.
Biodiversity is therefore vital in many respects and must be urgently preserved. At the moment, however, the opposite is the case: the loss of species is progressing rapidly; today it is at least 100 times faster than it would be without human intervention. Experts are already talking about a new mass extinction: between 1970 and 2016, the world’s population of wild animals – mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles – decreased by 68% on average. And the decline continues unabated: one species dies out every 11 minutes. According to projections from the IPBES, of an estimated eight million species, one million face extinction in the coming decades. This is also destroying more and more habitats: only about 25 % of the Earth’s surface is still free from significant human impact; almost half is used as arable or grazing land.
KfW is working to reverse this trend in line with the 2030 Agenda, as preserving nature and protecting biodiversity is essential for the future of humankind. Specifically, three inter-related crises need to be resolved all at once: limiting climate change to a tolerable level, preventing and containing pandemics, and preserving biodiversity.
Germany is strongly committed to the conservation of biological diversity, and is now one of the largest donors worldwide through KfW. In 2021, KfW significantly increased its commitment volume for biodiversity projects compared to the previous year: With more than EUR 1.3 billion, 125 protected areas covering almost 105 million hectares can be protected or sustainably managed, benefiting around 750,000 people. KfW cooperates not only with partner countries in this work, but also with major nature conservation organisations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and with non-governmental organisations like the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Frankfurt Zoological Society (ZGF). They jointly pursue the goal of protecting and preserving natural habitats as extensively as possible.