Transforming our economies into nature positive

By Olga Aristeidou

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The phrase ‘nature-positive investments’ has recently become a buzzword in the financial sector. Investing in nature-positive projects and nature-based solutions means reversing current declines in biodiversity. 

We all depend on nature for our food, air, water, energy and raw materials. Nature and biodiversity provide health, social and financial benefits, as well as solutions to pressing problems, such as climate change, food and water security. 

According to The Economics of Biodiversity: the Dasgupta Review, a study commissioned by the UK Treasury, for which the EBRD provided comments, from 1992 to 2014, the value of the global stock of natural capital ‒ for example, air, soil, water and even living organisms ‒ declined by nearly 40 per cent per person.   

Over half the world’s gross domestic product, around US$ 44 trillion, is moderately or highly dependent on nature and nature services. This is why international organisations, financial institutions and businesses must invest in nature conservation and restoration, in addition to their net-zero targets and climate financing commitments.  

“Nature and biodiversity protection have been an integral part of the EBRD’s operations since its inception,” says Adonai Herrera-Martinez, EBRD Director, Environment and Sustainability. “We are very proud that over the past 30 years, we have invested more than €6 billion in pollution prevention and wastewater treatment, with more than half of that invested in the last four years.” 

Recent examples include improvements in the water supply and treatment services of Shymkent, Kazakhstan, through the EBRD Green Cities programme and the construction of a wastewater pipeline in Amman, Jordan, together with the Global Concessional Financing Facility and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.  

Clean Oceans Initiative to stop plastic waste

Earlier this year, the EBRD joined the Clean Oceans Initiative to strengthen its work to reduce ocean pollution, particularly from plastics. Signatories commit to collectively investing up to €4 billion by 2025 in public and private-sector projects that can stop plastic waste from polluting the seas. 

The Initiative was launched in 2018 by the European Investment Bank (EIB), together with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), German development bank KfW, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) and the Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO). In three years, the Initiative has channelled €1.6 billion in financing to public- and private-sector projects. 

Environmental Technology Transfer programme

The EBRD and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have further joined forces with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to help keep the Mediterranean Sea clean. The Environmental Technology Transfer programme focuses on promoting investments in wastewater treatment and recycling. It also works to reduce or eliminate persistent organic pollutants in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Lebanon, Montenegro, Morocco, Tunisia and Türkiye

The programme aims to finance advanced environmental technologies to ensure cleaner coasts and water systems in the region. It will also help private and publicly owned enterprises to adopt technologies that prevent pollution and enable cleaner practices for the management of wastewater and pollution. 

Natural capital valuation of nature risks and opportunities

The EBRD is leading work to build a natural capital valuation model to assess the economic value of nature risks and opportunities associated with project activities.  

This model has been successfully tested in the Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan (Issyk-Kul and the Aral Sea), has undergone stakeholder consultation and is now being selectively piloted on projects across the EBRD regions to quantify the expected positive economic impacts of EBRD nature-related interventions. These include a pilot of natural capital valuation on a solid waste programme in Serbia and another pilot on the section of the Red Sea between Hurghada and Marsa al-Alam in Egypt

Nature, people and planet

At the COP26 global environmental conference last year, multilateral development banks (MDBs), including the EBRD, issued a joint statement on nature, people and planet, reiterating their commitment to protecting biodiversity and increasing and coordinating policy work to achieve systemic impact. The MDBs agreed to further mainstream nature into their policies, analysis, assessments, advice, investments and operations, in line with their respective mandates and operating models. 

Since the statement, the EBRD has been working to define the metrics for nature-positive finance tracking, setting standards for gathering and sharing better biodiversity data and preparing to integrate the valuation of natural capital in its nature-related risk management process. 

The EBRD at COP27 in Egypt 

The Mediterranean Sea basin is a recognised marine biodiversity hotspot and a vital source of economic activity for countries in the region. However, the environmental health of the Mediterranean region is at risk, especially as the forces of climate change exacerbate hazardous, pre-existing conditions. 

At COP27 this year, the EBRD, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) will be launching a new Blue Med Partnership to facilitate the effective delivery of donor funds and support blue economy projects undertaken by international and bilateral financial institutions that result in significantly reduced threats to the marine ecosystems and biodiversity of the Mediterranean region. 

“We are looking forward to the launch of this new partnership based on the very successful Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP). It will help tackle a wide range of projects including wastewater treatment, solid waste management in coastal regions, offshore renewable energy production, coastal resilience, and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture,” says Camilla Otto, EBRD Director of Donor Co-Financing. “We are glad that, together with our long-standing partners, we will support projects that result in significantly reduced threats to the marine ecosystems and biodiversity of the Mediterranean region.” 

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