Banking on innovation for green shoots
From the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya, Japan:
Maybe you thought it was all about the science of losing species and ecosystems, and the ethics of doing something about it.
But as the final phase of this meeting is making clear, it's largely about money.
Everyone here agrees that if governments are serious about halting the decline of species and ecosystems, then somehow more money needs to be spent on it.
As I outlined last week, estimates of how much more range from 10 times the current level to 100 times.
A problem occurring in the negotiations is that no-one knows how much is spent now - $3bn, maybe, if you take figures from bilateral aid - more still if you include spending by wildlife charities.
Anyway - the simple reality is that western nations are not going to be providing anything like 10 times the existing rate of funding, let alone 100 times.
So: how to raise these sums without the need to dip into strained national coffers?
The answer, in two words: "innovative mechanisms".
This'll be a phrase familiar to anyone who's followed the climate negotiations.
It generally means using some kind of market-based mechanism to raise funds - although there are exceptions, such as the proposed tax on international airline travel or international banking transactions, or the use of International Monetary Fund gold reserves to back "green loans", as financier George Soros proposed during the Copenhagen climate summit.
In the field of biodiversity, they don't all have to be international.
Countries such as Costa Rica already generate revenue that's given to landowners to protect "natural capital", such as forests - raising it through something that's environmentally negative, in this case burning fossil fuels.
It plans to develop this "payment for ecosystem services" (PES) scheme further. Other countries around the world are following similar programmes, often without calling them PES - landfill taxes, paper bag taxes, farm stewardship schemes...
... although no country is yet implementing the full vision of PES across the board, as some groups of economists here have advocated.
Other innovative finance methods, though, would be international, such as the UN-backed REDD+ programme.
Here at the CBD, the European Union unleashed a paper illustrating another idea - the Green Development Mechanism (GDM) [497.01KB PDF].
The model is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) - the instrument, conceived under the Kyoto Protocol, that puts a levy on carbon trading and ploughs it back into projects in developing countries that lower emissions.
The CDM has been heavily criticised down the years, notably because the bulk of the money has flowed into countries that are already developing quickly, such as China, rather than into the poorest states.
Proponents of the GDM would say - but you can learn from the CDM's experience, and do it better next time.
Perhaps; although the levels of complexity involved in accounting for environmental services across the board are at least an order of magnitude larger than where only carbon is concerned.
Whatever the pros and cons, the floating of the GDM here illustrates two simple points.
One is that as far as funders are concerned, innovative mechanisms are the only game in town if funds of this magnitude are to be generated for environmental protection.
The second, leading on from the first, is that innovative financing is going to have to deliver if the degradation of nature in its various guises is meaningfully to be retarded.