On 18 November, Birdlife South Africa’s work on the country’s first biodiversity tax incentive, which provides financial sustainability for landowners and communities declaring protected areas, received a Special Commendation at the Pathfinder Awards 2018 ceremony.  The Award ceremony took place at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (COP 14) in Egypt.  The solution “Biodiversity Tax Incentives for South Africa’s Protected Area Network”, which was coined as being impressive, innovative and unique has been awarded from over 200 submissions.

The winners of the award were determined through a rigorous 2-step selection process: a shortlisting phase involving around 20 experts on protected and conserved areas financing; and a jury selection phase, through which a high level international jury determined the winners from the shortlisted candidates.  The assessors noted in particular that the specific application of a tax break for individuals establishing private protected areas is globally innovative. No other country has a similar solution in place.

The Pathfinder Award was presented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), as well as WildArk- A Movement for the Wild.  ‘Innovation and Excellence in Protected and Conserved Area Financing and Resourcing” was the theme of the 2018 Awards; organised in co-operation with the UNDP-Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) and the PANORAMA – Solutions for a Healthy Planet initiative.  The PANAROMA initiative recently recognised and listed the “Biodiversity Tax Incentives for South Africa’s Protected Area Network” solution as a global solution.  IUCN’s PANORAMA, is a partnership initiative that documents examples of inspiring and replicable solutions across a range of conservation and sustainable development topics. In addition, this protected areas finance solution was also recognised as one of the United Nations Development Programme’s BIOFIN Solutions for South Africa and is estimated to contribute approximately over R1 billion to South Africa’s biodiversity conservation efforts by 2026.

The Biodiversity Tax Incentive Solution is being implemented through BirdLife South Africa’s Fiscal Benefits Project and has successfully introduced South Africa’s first biodiversity tax incentive, section 37D, into the conservation sector and is developing this to provide financial benefit to landowners declaring Protected Areas on their land. Tax incentives are still being tested at pilot sites across the country and these findings are being mainstreamed through a Corporate Conservation Partnership. The successful inclusion of this one-of-a-kind tax break in tax returns of South Africans protecting our Critical Biodiversity Areas, is closing the biodiversity finance gap for the sustainable persistence of protected areas across South Africa.

This important achievement and global recognition through the Pathfinder Award would not have been possible without the assistance of strategic partners and stakeholders across South Africa. The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through the Global Environment Facility (GEF 5) Biodiversity and Land Use Project, funds and partners with BirdLife South Africa to mainstream these successes. Key institutional support is received from the Department of Environmental Affairs and the UNDP’s BIOFIN Initiative, as well as the National Treasury and the South African Revenue Service. Catalytic seed funding was received from the WWF Nedbank Green Trust which provided the launch pad for what is now a global solution for the planet.

For more information on the tax incentives work please contact Candice Stevens via email at: Candice.stevens@birdlife.org.za

Click here for more information and resources on tax incentives: http://biodiversityadvisor.sanbi.org/industry-and-conservation/biodiversity-stewardship/tax-incentives/

Details of the Full Solution on Biodiversity Tax Incentives for South Africa’s Protected Area Network are available here: https://panorama.solutions/en/solution/biodiversity-tax-incentives-south-africas-protected-area-network

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