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By Sangeeta Mangubhai
Aichi Target 3 under the Convention on Biological Diversity states that “by 2020, at the latest, incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity are eliminated, phased out or reformed in order to minimize or avoid negative impacts, and positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are developed and applied, consistent and in harmony with the Convention and other relevant international obligations, taking into account national socio economic conditions.”
Under the RESCCUE project (www.spc.int/resccue) being funded by the French Development Agency (AFD) and the French Global Environment facility (FFEM) and implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC), a review is being done to look at what harmful subsidies and fiscal policies are in place in Pacific Island Countries and Territories in various economic sectors. These sectors include mining, fisheries, agriculture, transport, waste management, urban development and tourism. This work aims to tie taxation and subsidies to sustainable development goals, particularly around biodiversity and ecosystems under a coastal integrated management framework.
Taxes and subsidies if applied incorrectly can lead to increase resource use, increase in emissions and natural resource degradation, which can quickly become large problems for small island developing states. This is largely because taxes and subsidies are often not proportional to environmental impacts.
As a Pacific Islander, I want to see my country develop, but not if the cost is the loss of our rich biodiversity and our quality of life. I don’t want to live in a Fiji without its endemic birds and iguanas, traditional plants and medicine and wild places like the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape. I am proud that Fiji has a National Green Growth Framework, but I worry that this framework makes little reference to the removal of perverse taxes and subsidies.
At the IUCN World Conservation Congress I learnt that if correctly applied, taxes and subsidies can help reduce extraction, improve quality of water and soil and provide financing to support environmental objectives. Examples of greener taxes and subsidies include quotas on fisheries, taxes on harmful substances like pesticides, waste generation, and water pricing. As a partner on the RESCCUE project the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) looks forward to supporting the Fiji government find greener tax and subsidy incentives to contribute to the goals of the National Green Growth Framework.