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, animals and nature must be symbiotic to ensure quality of life for all. It is now known that the two SDGs, Life on Land (SDG 15) and Life Below Water (SDG 14), are considered particularly important levers. They act as a catalyst – or vice versa, as an obstacle – for the remaining SDGs and are therefore considered the key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as a whole.
Keeping nature intact to the greatest extent possible or restoring it is also very important for food security, for example, because birds and insects are needed for pollination of plants. But it’s not just the pollinators that are disappearing; farmland diversity is also declining. Nine species, including rice, maize and wheat, now dominate global agriculture. However, diversity in farmland is important; it can make agriculture more resilient to pests and help to develop new varieties that may be better able to cope with the changing conditions caused by climate change.
Nature also plays a decisive role in climate protection. Forests, peatlands and soils are natural carbon sinks that can help to effectively reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. According to calculations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPCC and IPBES), plants and oceans naturally absorb around half of the carbon emitted by humans. When forests are cleared, not only are species and ecosystem services lost, but vast amounts of climate-damaging greenhouse gases are also released. Preserving biodiversity, protecting endangered animal species and terrestrial ecosystems, and no longer destroying forests, but managing them sustainably, therefore also have a vital benefit for the climate.
After all, nature is important for our health – the coronavirus pandemic clearly demonstrated that. The outbreak of the pandemic was also a consequence of the global exploitation of nature. 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 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.
Biodiversity is therefore vital (to survival) in many respects and must be preserved as a matter of urgency. At the moment, however, the opposite is true. Species loss is accelerating rapidly; today it is at least 100 times faster than it would be without human intervention. Experts are already speaking of a new mass extinction. Between 1970 and 2018, the world's population of wild animals – mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles – decreased by 69% on average. And this loss continues unabated. According to IPBES projections, of an estimated eight million species, one million face extinction in the coming decades.
KfW is committed to reversing this trend, in line with the 2030 Agenda and the new “Global Biodiversity Framework”. Conserving nature and protecting biodiversity is an issue of central importance for the future for humanity. Specifically, three inter-related crises need to be resolved all at once: limiting climate change to a tolerable level, combating hunger and achieving security of food supply, preventing and containing pandemics, and preserving biodiversity.
Germany is strongly committed to the conservation of biological diversity and is now one of the world's largest donors through KfW, among others. It takes care to include indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLC), as their livelihoods depend heavily on nature. At the same time, they are often also particularly good “guardians” of nature. This involvement is done, for example, through active participation in local decisions or through complaint mechanisms so that they can contact someone if their concerns are not sufficiently taken into account.
In 2022, the commitment volume for KfW projects that contribute to achieving SDG 15 was around EUR 831 million. This can be used, among other things, to protect, sustainably manage and restore forests and to support agricultural resource management measures that help to use agricultural land more sustainably. 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 all jointly pursue the goal of protecting and preserving natural habitats as extensively as possible.