Linking the SDGs and nature: a new conceptual tool

Natural systems support our food production, clean our water, regulate our climate and safeguard the Earth’s diverse species – and by doing so, support many aspects of human well-being. “Essential” natural capital refers to areas where nature provides this crucial support. However, there is little guidance for countries on how to manage natural ecosystems to meet the needs of current and future generations.

As countries are considering how to achieve their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement, it is critical to consider how to maintain the essential natural capital needed for sustainable development and a healthy climate.

To better articulate the link between the SDGs and nature, Conservation International (CI) has been working on a range of conceptual studies that seek to define and describe which of the SDGs depend directly on nature. In addition, and to inform this conceptual research, CI, Vital Signs (, and the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) – held a workshop in July 2017 to discuss how nature contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the perspective of national government representatives. The workshop, held in Nairobi, brought together participants from six GDSA countries (Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda). These participants came from a range of entities, including Bureaus of Statistics, Finance and Planning, and Ministries of Environment.

Informed by the workshop, in this document, CI presents a conceptual tool which uses nature as a lens to identify links between international commitments in sustainable development (the SDGs), climate (Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement) and biodiversity (the Aichi Targets). This tool is designed as a starting point for enable countries to identify links between nature and their individual national development plans.

Interested in using the tool? The tool can be downloaded HERE from the GDSA website.

For more information on this tool and related work, please contact Rowan Braybrook ( This document should be cited as Conservation International (2017) Linking development, climate, and biodiversity commitments: A conceptual tool. Arlington, VA.