Mainstreaming nature and biodiversity into wider planning and policy

Biodiversity conservation, climate change and economic development must be tackled together by the institutions that drive policy, rules, plans, investment and action – a process known as ‘mainstreaming’. We aim to ensure this happens through research, capacity building and partnerships with key organisations, communities and other actors.

Article, 16 August 2013
Biodiversity and development
A programme of work showing how IIED is working to ensure biodiversity conservation, climate change and economic development are tackled together by the institutions that drive policy, rules, plans, investment and action
UNESCO considers Tanzania's Ngorongoro Conservation Area to be of global importance for biodiversity conservation, but it faces significant development pressure from tourism (Photo: Justin, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Oryx in Namibia. We are helping the country to become a leader in biodiversity mainstreaming (Photo: csaam)

As with many other environmental assets, like clean water, biodiversity is unpriced and its benefits (as well as the costs of its loss) are unrecognised and poorly reflected in public and private sector planning processes. It isn’t prioritised in national or sectoral development and poverty reduction strategies, despite its importance to poor people.

Yet nature-based solutions can help poor people adapt to, and mitigate the effects of, climate change. For example, preserving trees and maintaining biodiversity can help provide natural protection against flooding, while diverse traditional crops often prove to be more resilient to climate and weather variation.  

Nature-based solutions can also provide pathways out of poverty – for example through sustainable tourism, wildlife trade and other natural resource based enterprises.

Tackling the trade-offs

There can be trade-offs between meeting conservation, climate and development goals – particularly if they are considered in isolation. The irreparable loss of biodiversity can increase the vulnerability of poor people to climate change and other external shocks and reduce their options for development.

But ill-planned conservation measures can equally exacerbate poverty – for example, if poor peoples’ access to essential natural resources is curtailed by setting up protected areas, which they are then excluded from. Or hitting development targets such as food security can mean sacrificing conservation targets such as maintaining forests.

To tackle these trade-offs, biodiversity concerns must be taken into wider climate and development planning, policy and projects. Equally, poverty and livelihoods issues must be integrated into conservation policy and planning – this is the focus of our work on conservation, communities and equity.

To better integrate biodiversity values into climate and development action we are:

Additional resources

Biodiversity mainstreaming in Global Environment Facility projects: A review of current practice, Jessica Smith, Steve Bass, Dilys Roe (2020), project report

Biodiversity mainstreaming: a review of current theory and practice, Jessica Smith, Steve Bass, Dilys Roe (2020), Project report


Dilys Rose (, principal researcher, IIED's Natural Resources research group