Unique tax incentive to support biodiversity conservation in South Africa | Sustainable Finance Coalition

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INSIGHT by the Sustainable Finance Coalition


South Africa has done it again! We have activated another tax incentive dedicated to the environment. The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), together with the Sustainable Finance Coalition (the Coalition) and through implementation by Wilderness Foundations Africa (WFA), has executed the country’s first tax incentive for threatened species, such as rhino and lion.

This unique tax incentive, section 37C(1) of South Africa’s Income Tax Act, is enabled by the signing of the country’s first ever Biodiversity Management Agreements (BMAs) between the Minister of the Environment, Barbara Creecy, and South African taxpayers. The tax incentive allows ordinary South Africans, who are safeguarding threatened ecosystems or species, to deduct all expenses related to their conservation efforts from taxable income. These initial BMAs, a Candidate Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measure (OECM), are being implemented for the first time by landowners in the Limpopo Province who are now able to access this pioneering deduction.

In December 2022, the world signed the historic Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) which sets global targets to stem the tide of biodiversity loss and protect our planet. South Africa has signalled its commitment to these targets and government and civil society are working side by side to achieve these. Target 3, the 30×30 area-based conservation target, and Target 18, the scaling up of positive incentives for conservation, are of particular importance. They speak to the critical nexus of conservation and finance.

Sustainable Finance Coalition CEO and Chairperson, Candice Stevens, notes the dual impact of this innovation: “Not only does this tax incentive provide a finance solution for conservation in South Africa, but it simultaneously creates a Candidate OECM, contributing to our national 30×30 goals. It has a dual impact for conservation and finance.”

Critically important to achieving our goals for nature is the need to increase finance available for conservation efforts. The tax incentive is expected to unlock finance for conservation and maintenance of threatened species and ecosystems at approximately ZAR 1.5 million (USD 80 000) per annum. The incentive is niche, but it does provide a dedicated financial benefit for citizens seeking to do their part in protecting our country’s incredible natural heritage. Stevens notes that “Our ability as South Africans to innovate around finance for nature, particularly with tax incentives is already world-renowned, and this novel incentive gives us one more finance tool for our biodiversity rich country. It is a testament to our pioneering spirit to find solutions no matter the challenge and to effectively collaborate across public, private and civic sectors.”

 

“Not only does this tax incentive provide a finance solution for conservation in South Africa, but it simultaneously creates a Candidate OECM, contributing to our national 30×30 goals. It has a dual impact for conservation and finance.”

-Candice Stevens, Sustainable Finance Coalition CEO and Chairperson

 

Mobilising this new finance solution was achieved by the Coalition’s 3-Stage Finance Solution Approach©, which strategically develops new finance solutions whilst fostering the incubation of innovation. The Coalition’s finance model is applicable to any individual finance mechanism and is currently being applied to 14 finance solutions in 12 African countries, supporting countless stakeholders to unlock finance for nature and people. It was also used to unlock South Africa’s Protected Area Tax Incentive, section 37D, garnering global recognition. Section 37D allows taxpayers to deduct the value of their land where that land is declared as a nature reserve or national park.

 


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The tax incentive was incubated by the Coalition in 2020, and piloted by implementing partner, WFA, through funding from Rhino Recovery Fund in 2021 and 2022. The tax incentive’s requirements are directly linked to the BMAs enacted by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act No. 10 of 2004 (NEMBA) and conservation actions are guided by gazetted Biodiversity Management Plans (BMPs). WFA CEO Andrew Muir emphasises “after the High-Level Panel Report in 2020 there was a strong sentiment that South Africa needed to do more to assist private citizens and communities owning and conserving rhino for future generations, this tax incentive does exactly that. WFA is delighted to have played a pivotal role in the activation of the tax incentive which will help to enable our vision of keeping wild animals in their natural habitat, securing wilderness areas and promoting benefits to local communities”.

“If you are involved in the conservation and maintenance of threatened species and ecosystems (for example rhino, lion, cycads, vultures, and others) for which a BMP has been published, you may be eligible to access the tax deduction. You will need to sign a BMA with DFFE for a period of at least five years. Expenditure incurred in the conservation and maintenance of threatened species and ecosystems may then be deducted, examples of which may include, but are not limited to, alien-clearing, ranger salaries, security, veterinary expenses, or member levies contributing to the conservation and maintenance activities of management associations of areas”, notes Ellané van Wyk, Lead for Finance Solution Incubation and Implementation for the Coalition. She also shares that “this has been an interesting and most exciting journey. Landowners are always pleased to receive assistance and benefits for them to conserve and manage species and ecosystems effectively. This tax incentive will assist in closing the conservation finance gap and will benefit both people and places.”

 


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