Biodiversity can be defined as the unpredictability between living organisms including terrestrial, inter alia, aquatic ecosystems and the ecological networks to which they belong; this consists of diversity between species and ecosystems, between different species and within species (Ekpe, 2013:17). South Africa has rich natural resources, including ecosystems and biodiversity. These ecosystems provide a selection of essential services for people and economic development (DEA, 2015).

Biodiversity is important for the survival of life on earth. Still, global biodiversity is weakening, that threatens the existence of humanity (Ekpe, 2013:16). Environmental problems are uncertain, multi-scale, and complex and affect numerous agencies and actors. This requires clear decision-making that take different values and knowledge into account and is adaptable to unstable conditions (Reed, 2008:2419).

The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) ensures the management of ecological infrastructure and biodiversity assets in order to assist the development path and the economy of South Africa (DEA, 2015). The NBSAP is an obligation that “contracting parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)” are required to comply. The NBSAP consists of an integrated national strategy for the management, sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity and summarises how contracting parties will achieve the aims of the Convention. The NBSAP is an important tool that offers a “framework for the integration of biodiversity considerations into other sectoral plans and strategies” (DEA, 2015:1). Conservation planning involves the identification of spatially clear priorities and proceedings in order to conserve the biodiversity of an area (Reyers et al., 2010:959). Conservation is not only about biology, but also includes people and their choices. Conservation is thus influenced by a range of political and socio-economic opportunities and limitations (Reyers et al., 2010:960).

Biodiversity is valued according to the biological resources produced (Ekpe, 2013:17). Biodiversity conservation is of great concern to economics, it recognises the necessary decisions on the use of biological resources and habitats as well as the disagreement among organizations and/or individuals upon the amount of diversity to conserve. The aim is to provide sound solutions for a better off society. Therefore, biodiversity is seen by economists as a valuable and scarce resource which improve humans’ well-being. This makes biodiversity utilitarian and anthropocentric from an economic opinion (Ekpe, 2013:18).

Environmental management instruments have gained a lot of success for the conservation of the biodiversity, because of the economic concern of people that live near or in biodiversity-rich regions (Ekpe, 2013:16). The objective of this article is to evaluate to what degree the four environmental management approaches are reflected in South Africa’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, 2015 – 2025.


Environmental management is an expanding, extensive, and fast developing field, which includes all humans, and works towards sustainable development (Barrow, 2006). Environmental enforcement tools are categorised into the following classes: command and control-based instruments; fiscal or market-based instruments, civil-based instruments and agreement-based instruments (Nel & Wessels, 2010:50).


Command-and-control is pursued when the behaviour of institutions, people or nature exceed the norm of society, in order to predict ecosystem and human behaviours (Holling & Meffe, 1996:329). The command-and-control (CaC) approach is defined as the strict monitoring of a system by the use of legislation such as whether offenders are prosecuted with criminal law and whether the law is being followed (Toxopeüs, 2015:26).

Command-and-control management enables little flexibility when it comes to achieving goals (Stavins, 2002:1). The CaC approach sets uniform standards to improve and protect the quality of the environment and achieve compliance (Elazegui, 2002:1; Seekoe, 2017:6; Stavins. 2002:1). A standard is an authorised level that reviews performance and is enforced by legislation (Elazegui, 2002:1). Standards are therefore favoured, as they set clear and desired environmental quality targets (Elazegui, 2002:3; Seik, 1996:5). Command-and-control instruments aim to reach these standards by regulating firm and individual activities and performance (Seik, 1996:5). The complete enforcement loop is covered by the command-and-control approach that ranges from standards for environmental degradation, policy to legislation and CaC instruments (Nel & Wessels, 2010:50).

The outputs of CaC instruments come in the form of licenses, laws, registrations, permits, codes of practice, administrative guidelines and directives (Seik, 1996:6). The demand for levels of top-down, “command-and-control management to natural resources” are rapidly increasing (Holling & Meffe, 1996:328).

South Africa is improving by mainstreaming biodiversity integration with biodiversity initiatives into the national development agenda that includes the National Development Plan (NDP) (DEA, 2015:28). This strategic objective strives to ensure that compliance with permits and authorisations is enforced and monitored as provided in Outcome 3.4. Suitable allocation of resources in key sectors of the government must facilitate in biodiversity management, specifically biodiversity priority areas as described in Outcome 3.5. Biodiversity considerations must be implemented into the implementation and development of legislative, policy and other tools (multilateral and national agreements) as an enabling measure according to Outcome 3.6 (DEA, 2015:39).

Some of the achievements in environmental enforcement and compliance include “the integration of units dealing with ‘green, blue and brown’ compliance and enforcement issues into an integrated team”. The total environmental management inspectors have increased the amount of compliance and directive notices issued as well as the effectiveness of enforcement and compliance activities. However, concerns are raised with the high occurrences of illegal activities associated with biodiversity and environmental impact assessment demands. An Enforcement and Compliance Strategy has been developed for the Environmental Management Inspectorate (EMI) that intent to guarantee effective and coordinated enforcement and compliance interventions (DEA, 2015:33).

Other priorities involve streamlining environmental sector responsibilities and functions at a provincial and national level, with suitable enforcement and monitoring to confirm the reasonable distribution of natural resources (DEA, 2015:35).


Fiscal or economic based approach is an administrative instrument and technique that are implemented by governments and institutions to influence the behaviour of individuals and stakeholders who partakes in activities that may cause negative impacts on the environment or acts in an environmentally accountable style through market signals (James, 1997; Godfrey & Nahman, 2007; Nahman & Godfrey, 2010:3; Stavins, 2002:1; Stavins, 2010:41; Tietenberg, 1990:21; Van Beukering et al., 2009:2892). The approach and its instruments are also known as economic instruments, incentives, disincentives or market-based approach.

Economic instruments or fiscal tools make use of market-based disincentive-directed or incentive-directed measures in order to achieve the wanted behaviour (Nel & Wessels, 2010:50; Seekoe, 2017:2). The fiscal-based approach uses an incentive system where one can offer the best knowledge regarding control opportunities, industry environmental managers, are motivated to use their knowledge in order to attain environmental objectives at a lower cost (Tietenberg, 1990:22; Weersink et al., 1998:309). These instruments can deliver the financial incentive through taxes, marketable permits, subsidies, fees, changes to property rights, tariffs, tradable emission permits, Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) and product charges deposit-refund schemes (Gaitán-Cremaschi et al., 2017:186; Hens & Boon, 1999:347; Jordan et al., 2003:10; Vračarević, 2014:79).

Additional resources for biodiversity management are categorised in the following two classes (DEA, 2015:35):

  • Available funding for biodiversity through non-state management and fiscus
  • Strengthening economic instrument framework that assists biodiversity management.
Economic instruments also include incentives that reassure private sector investments such as PES, green bonds and tax incentives (DEA, 2015:35). The Fiscal or market-based approach promotes environmental development. These instruments contribute support to the command-and-control approach and are cost efficient and have a low risk (Bressers & Huitema, 1999:175; Pannell, 2001:518).


Civil-based instruments (CBIs) contain all measures to inform, empower, educate and encourage civil society to participate in the enforcement process (Nel & Wessels, 2010:50). Civil-based instruments mainly focus on the involvement of the public when classifying and attaining sustainable development (Fraser et al., 2006:122). CBIs are used to attain crucial standards of environmental rights (Toxopeüs, 2015:23).

Civil society promotes environmental justice through civil-based environmental governance. The civil based approach that includes access to justice, public participation and access to information may lead to outcomes that empower all members of society to contribute to environmental governance (Toxopeüs, 2015). Civil-based instruments encourage procedural environmental justice, as the public is a vital stakeholder in the environmental governance regime and given the chance to partake in environmental enforcement, compliance, and decision-making (Toxopeüs, 2015). The civil-based approach will reach success with the condition that the public needs to be informed, educated and eager to interact (Reed, 2008:2425). The access to information promotes participation and lead to environmentally sound decision-making, as the public community is informed and in the right position to participate expressively and effectively (Toxopeüs, 2015:69).

In order to deliver a practical, prioritized and action-driven NBSAP, the reviewed NBSAP aligned with the strategic plans of stakeholders for the short-term, while providing sustainable use, conservation and stable management of the biodiversity (DEA, 2015:15).

In South Africa, the public community lacks the proper education concerning biodiversity which causes poor recognition of ecological infrastructure and the social, environmental and economic importance of biodiversity assets. It is important to have a better understanding and awareness of the cultural, environmental, intrinsic and economic values of biodiversity to build inspiration for action. Furthermore, individuals must be aware of the actions they can take to sustain and conserve biodiversity (DEA, 2015:37).

The South African government composed an initiative, Operation Phakisa, to assist in the performance of solutions that are emphasized in the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 on serious development concerns (DEA, 2015:52). Operation Phakisa converts strategies into results using devoted association and delivery. The focal point of Operation Phakisa is to bring important stakeholders from the private and public sectors, civil society organisations and academia together in order for them to co-operate in accurate priority setting, problem analysis, delivery, and intervention planning. The application of the strategies is carefully reported and observed, and the challenges faced are vigorously managed for efficient and effective resolution (DEA, 2015:52).

An integrated National Biodiversity Information System (NBIS) is essential to organising, synthesizing, refining, managing and harnessing biodiversity knowledge and information that is available and encourage decision-making and policy development (DEA, 2015:55). The implementation and development of the System is managed by SANBI (DEA, 2015:55). The system has partnerships with various stakeholders including NGOs, research institutions, government, and other public bodies. SANBI approves access to the resource base in order to assist decision-making, research and policy development. The NBIS is necessary to encourage the application of the NBSAP, and the implementation of the objectives of the Aichi Targets (DEA, 2015:55).

An annual meeting will be convened by the DEA for key stakeholders associated in the application of the NBSAP. Specific focus will be given on the revising and reporting of the NBSAP objectives’ progress that provides a significant platform for institutional management (DEA, 2015:56).

Assuming that participation processes are recognised as transparent and reflect contradictory views and claims, stakeholder participation may build on the trust of the public in civil society and decisions (Reed, 2008:2421). Stakeholder participation may develop the possibility that environmental outcomes are recognised to be reasonable and holistic, considering for a variety of requirements and values and identifying the intricacy of the interactions between humans and the environment (Reed, 2008:2421; Richards et al., 2004). The extensive society and stakeholders learn from one another by developing and building on new relationships and learning to acknowledge other people’s views (Reed, 2008:2421). Participatory processes may appear to be uncertain, but if the process is well thought-out and designed, these alleged risks may be valuable (Reed, 2008:2417).


The agreement-based instrument contains a vital measure of approval of a contract or the arrangement of a contract between two parties and considering their mutual obligations, followed by an examination of varied resources (Aggeri, 1999:700). The agreement procedures include unilateral agreements, negotiated agreements, public non-mandatory programmes and private agreements (Seekoe, 2017:2).

Voluntary agreements and performance standards influence the principles of environmental impacts but not definitely the progress because the facilities have no motivation to adhere to the requirements or agreed objectives (Arimura et al,. 2008:9). Negotiated agreements certify contracts between public authorities and industries focused on specific environmental concerns (Seekoe, 2017:23).

Policy development is growing and is critical for the acknowledgement for evolving gaps, issues and defining evident concerns in order to enable and promote implementation. It is also affected by international agreements, protocols, treaties, and conventions that South Africa has approved and signed. These include (DEA, 2015:6):

  • The three Rio Conventions
  • Other treaties and agreements (Sustainable Development Goals, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels)
  • Other biodiversity-associated conventions (International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
The MTAF is a guiding framework for the government’s programme of performance in a certain electoral term. The current Medium-term Strategic Framework (MTSF) period is from 2014 to 2019. This selected framework focuses on government achievements on tactical priorities for shifting South Africa to an environmentally sustainable, low-carbon, climate change resilient economy (DEA, 2015:6). “Outcome 10 in the MTSF 2014-2019 is ‘Environmental assets and natural resources that are well protected and continually enhanced’” (DEA, 2015:7). A substantial indication of political obligation and will to biodiversity conservation and management is directed by Outcome 10 of the Presidential Delivery Agreement. The Presidential Delivery Agreement has 12 Outcomes that express the strategic priorities of the MTSF more clearly and articulate Outcome Delivery Performance Agreements and key activities between Ministers and the President (DEA, 2015:7).

The annual performance and strategic plans of the provincial and national department are associated with the Outcome agreements and MTSF. Through coordination of the NBSAP with these strategies and reporting and monitoring frameworks, it lowers the responsibility of reporting and guarantees alignment between international and national obligations (DEA, 2015:57).

Furthermore, a number of structures endure for management on activities associated with “multilateral environmental agreements”. These involve the National Ramsar Committee and the Scientific Committee on the Convention on Migratory Species (DEA, 2015:56).

Alignment of the Aichi Targets to the NBSAP as well as other global conventions are valuable for country reporting in contradiction of the agreements or conventions and assist an apprehension of the various connections between strategies (DEA, 2015:64). The NBIS is important to encourage the application of the NBSAP, and support the achievement of the Aichi Targets’ objectives (DEA, 2018:55).


The main problem for policy makers in the environmental field concerns classifying a suitable environmental management instrument. Policy makers apply numerous instruments in many cases to focus on a particular environmental issue (Bennear & Stavins, 2007:111).

Various instruments are fit for different problems in opposed situations. The challenge is to ascertain the circumstances under which one instrument, or a combination of instruments, is the relevant option. The use of multiple or combinations of environmental management instruments is familiar and “takes the form of a hybrid instrument” (Bennear & Stavins, 2007:112).

“Biodiversity stewardship is an approach to protect and manage land in biodiversity priority areas that are led by conservation authorities entering into legal agreements with private and communal landowners” (DEA, 2015:13). It identifies landowners as conservators of biodiversity on their private properties and is established on voluntary commitments from property-owners, with a variety of biodiversity stewardship agreements some containing formally stated as protected areas regarding the Protected Areas Act, and others concerning the contract law or Biodiversity Act (DEA, 2015:13).

Therefore, the biodiversity stewardship is a hybrid between the civil and agreement-based instruments as well as command-and-control based instruments. The government frequently undertake service level agreements (public-private partnership contracts) with the objective of developing its narrow capability to deliver effective and efficient services (Seekoe, 2017:44).

Biodiversity stewardship offers tools through which these improvements to both the conservation estate and protected area estate can be assured. Biodiversity stewardship includes voluntary obligations from landowners (private, communal or government) as a result of various forms of agreements with conservation authorities in order to operate and protect land in biodiversity priority areas (DEA, 2015:19).


The NBSAP recognises the main concerns for biodiversity management, aligning them with the targets and priorities in the national development imperatives as well as in the global agenda (DEA, 2015).

Protecting the environment requires a wide range set of instruments that can meet the challenges raised by the consolidation between environmental sustainability and economic development (Gusmerotti et al., 2012).

The environmental management approaches are crucial for encouraging environmental protection and move towards sustainable growth as they feature the role of access, accountability, participation, transparency, and legitimacy in environmental governance (Toxopeüs, 2015:31).

Command-and-control based instruments are the main drivers of conformity by organisations and is an important imperative for environmental protection (Nel & Wessels, 2010:72).

The effective implementation of all four approaches will improve sustainable development and conservation of the biodiversity

Share This

Share this post
Client Testimonials
© Copyright ENVASS Group Of Companies, Designed & Developed by ThinkTank Creative