Award for biodiversity tax incentives

BirdLife South Africa announced that Candice Stevens, BirdLife South Africa’s Policy & Advocacy programme manager and the South African government, represented by the Department of Environmental Affairs have been awarded the Pathfinder Award Special Commendation for their innovative work on biodiversity tax incentives.

The award was presented at the Pathfinder Award Ceremony at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 14) in Egypt on 18 November 2018.

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, presented the inaugural Pathfinder award. The Pathfinder award acknowledges “innovation & excellence in protected and conserved area financing and resourcing” and recognises outstanding and innovative solutions for protected and conserved areas. More than 200 nominations were submitted from all over the world.

The winners of the award were determined through a rigorous selection process involving experts on protected area financing and a high level panel of international judges. The assessors noted that this collaborative work by BirdLife South Africa’s Fiscal Benefits project and the government of South Africa is in particular, “achieving the specific application of a tax break for establishing privately protected areas, is globally innovative. No other country has a similar solution in place and it is a tremendous achievement”.

How it all started

BirdLife South Africa’s Fiscal Benefits project was launched in 2015 by Candice Stevens, a tax expert with specialist skills in incentives, biodiversity finance, and protected area policy. The project successfully tested biodiversity tax incentives as a benefit for landowners and communities who have declared protected areas through the national biodiversity stewardship initiative. This all began with the achievement of introducing a new tax incentive, section 37D, into the Income Tax Act. Section 37D provides a tax break for conservation commitment. It allows the total value of a Nature Reserve or National Park to be deducted from the taxable income of a landowner or community, reducing the tax burden, increasing sustainable finance for long-term environmental management, and bolstering economic activities synonymous with South Africa’s biodiversity economy.

This unique protected area finance solution is listed as one of South Africa’s official BIOFIN Solutions and is estimated to contribute approximately over R1 billion to South Africa’s biodiversity conservation efforts by 2026. This important achievement and global recognition through the Pathfinder award would not have been possible without the assistance of strategic partners and stakeholders throughout 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.

Candice Stevens also works closely with the biodiversity stewardship community of practice in South Africa, and the efforts of individuals and organisations, working tirelessly to safeguard South Africa’s incredible natural heritage, are part and parcel of this award. Special thanks go to the donors, institutional supporters, and colleagues who have provided continued support and input into ensuring the success of this finance innovation. BirdLife South Africa is proud to be at the cutting edge of globally innovative conservation work.

BirdLife South Africa’s Fiscal Benefits project is a novel approach to biodiversity finance and leads the way in the global use of biodiversity tax incentives. The project is funded by the GEF in partnership with SANBI. – Press release




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