Executive summary

Latin America is one of the most important regions of the world in terms of biodiversity and ecosystems. The region’s rich biodiversity provides invaluable benefits to human health, well-being and the broader economy. However, its wealth is under threat. As in other parts of the world, large-scale deforestation to clear land for agriculture, mining, energy and infrastructure projects are placing enormous pressure on the region’s ecosystems. Invasive alien species, overfishing and climate change are additional drivers of biodiversity loss.

Institutional and policy frameworks

Institutional and policy frameworks for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use in Latin America have improved. International agreements such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity have triggered the revision and adoption of new strategies and action plans. The diversity of policy instruments used has increased. However, lack of financial and human capacity, poor co-ordination, low political priority assigned to biodiversity, insufficient data, and inadequate mainstreaming of biodiversity considerations into sectoral policies continue to hamper effective implementation.

Policy instruments

Protected areas are the main biodiversity conservation tool used in Latin America. Terrestrial protected areas cover a surface far surpassing the international Aichi Target of 17% by 2020, but marine protected areas lag behind. The region is a leader in the use of payments for ecosystem services, yet the use of other economic instruments – such as water charges, water markets, forestry fees and tradable fishing and forestry quotas – could be further extended. Environmentally harmful subsidies, such as for pesticides and small-scale mining, are impeding progress and need reform.


Government budgets for biodiversity have been increasing, and are complemented by international development finance. However, the overall level of funding remains inadequate. Increases need to come both from public budgets and from external sources, which governments could leverage through the greater use of economic instruments and public-private partnerships. More work could be done to ensure that finance is channelled to where it is needed most, which will require improvements in data and information.

Mainstreaming biodiversity

Aligning sectoral and biodiversity objectives are important, as development continues to put pressure on areas outside of official protection. Effective mainstreaming requires good governance and political and financial engagement. While the use of environmental impact assessments or strategic environmental assessment is growing, work is required to ensure that the approaches are accepted by local communities. Mainstreaming is important in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism and mining, energy and infrastructure development as these sectors depend on natural resources and the services that ecosystems provide, but also have negative effects on biodiversity. Synergies between biodiversity and climate change mitigation and adaptation are being explored and should be further capitalised.

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