National Biodiversity Expenditure Review

The first output of this project was the preparation of a National Biodiversity Expenditure Review (NBER) between 2017 and 2018. Records of expenditure can be used to identify where most biodiversity expenditure has been directed. The NBER provides the basis to strategically manage future expenditure to achieve the best returns for the conservation of habitats and species given finite budgets.

The NBER developed a methodology to record expenditure on biodiversity conservation in Ireland for the period 2010-2015. This involved the development of a database of all relevant expenditure by government departments, Local Authorities, environmental NGOs and the private sector. The database was broadly based on the UN Biodiversity Finance Initiative BIOFIN (www.biodiversityfinance.net) methodology. The collection of expenditure data was challenging as expenditure occurs across a diversity of sectors and government departments and is often not listed as “biodiversity” or may be double-counted elsewhere.

The methodology includes coefficients to account for the fact that much policy-related expenditure serves more than one aim. For example, agri-environmental payments also serve as income transfers to more economically marginal farms, while the protection of wild fish stocks not only protects marine biodiversity, but also helps to sustain commercial fishing. The NBER did not account for the protection of wider environmental protection, for example, the monitoring and protection of water quality, as this serves other social needs such as public health. Moreover, coefficients of biodiversity expenditure do not necessarily equate to effectiveness of this expenditure.

In addition, the NBER uses tagging to relate expenditure to various objectives or targets set by both Ireland’s NBAP and the CBD. The latter, for example, has 20 targets that range from awareness raising and policy integration to sustainable agriculture, protection of the marine environment, and enhancement and restoration.

The project report can be found here. It found that biodiversity expenditure over the period 2010-2015 amounted to €1.49bn, or an average of €200m per year. Almost all expenditure (i.e. 97%) can be traced back to State funding, sometimes in association with European (i.e. EU) funding. Expenditure on the wider countryside represents the main single element of funding, although most of this, amounting to 75% of total biodiversity expenditure, is associated with agri-environmental schemes.

Although €200m sounds high, this represents just 0.13% of Irish GDP. This compares with a target of 0.3% set by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Expenditure has also fluctuated over the years and had declined by 31% over the review period.  This slippage has occurred against a background of very considerable threats facing biodiversity, both nationally and globally. For example, 85 of habitats in Ireland are in “unfavourable status” (i.e. “Inadequate” or “Bad”), as are 30% of protected species.

In February 2019, the findings of the NBER were presented at the National Biodiversity Conference. Watch our presentation below:

Dr Craig Bullock and Dr Rachel Morrison, Dublin Castle, Feb. 2019