Biological diversity (biodiversity) provides numerous so-called ecosystem services for human material livelihoods.2 Among other things it supplies food, drinking water (through soil cycling functions), income (through the sale of nature-based products), and protection against floods and storms (provided by mangroves and coral reefs in coastal regions). Many ecosystem services transcend national or continental borders, including, inter alia, the climate-regulating effects of tropical forests and the medicinal properties of some tropical plants which benefit customers around the world (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Yet human economic activities significantly overexploit the earth’s biological resource base and thereby threaten the very basis of human life (Rockström et al., 2009). In reaction to this, at the highest political level, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) commits its signatory parties to the objectives of conservation and to the sustainable use of biodiversity, with the latter generally understood as part of the former (United Nations, 1992).3 Biodiversity conservation does not come for free, of course, and principles are thus needed to determine who should be responsible for bearing the costs of conservation. While these principles are in practice politically negotiated, ideally, they should be just. Ideals will hardly ever be reached in ‘real world’ politics, but they can operate as an important guidance for reform (Buchanan and Keohane, 2006: 406-410). Therefore, I consider it worthwhile to discuss how far the international conservation regime of the CBD provides for the just international allocation of responsibility for conservation-related costs. In order to keep the global ecological balance intact it is particularly urgent to conserve biodiversity in developing countries, where most biodiversity today is concentrated (Rosendal, 2000: 20). Hence, I focus on responsibility for conservation in developing countries. Specifically, I ask who should be responsible for bearing the costs of biodiversity conservation in developing countries. The question about the just allocation of costs for international environmental policies has sparked a huge debate among global climate justice scholars (e.g. Shue, 1993;
Neumayer, 2000; Caney, 2006, 2010; Page, 2016; Schuppert, 2016), but a similar discussion is still missing for other environmental policy fields. By singling out biodiversity conservation as a starting point, I hope to contribute to closing this gap. Moreover, by its very nature, the theoretical debate is focused on the principled normative question of who ought to bear what burden of global climate policies but rarely moves on to ask how actual policies fare in this light (for a recent partial exception see Armstrong, 2016). However, if political theory is to work as a practical discipline that helps in deciding what should be done, then it surely does need to engage with actual policies (Swift and White, 2008). A second objective and contribution of this chapter, therefore, is to empirically evaluate how far the policies adopted in the framework of the CBD live up to normatively justifiable principles of responsibility. In order to address these twin objectives, the chapter proceeds as follows. In the first, theoretical, section, I argue for a combination of the contributor pays principle and the ability to pay principle. On this basis, I conclude that the least developed states should be exempted from conservation funding and all other states should bear a progressively increasing funding responsibility. In a second, empirical, section, I work out whom the CBD and finance-related decisions of its Conferences of the Parties (COPs) hold accountable for funding conservation in developing countries. I then evaluate these policies in the light of the normative principles discussed and conclude that the CBD itself is largely in line with my normative suggestions for the allocation of responsibility, but recent COP decisions diverge from this by attributing too much responsibility to developing countries. Finally, I highlight the increasing role of the private sector as an actor in biodiversity conservation that needs more attention in normative theorizing.