BIOFIN was initiated in response to the urgent global need to divert more finance from all possible sources towards global and national biodiversity goals, as highlighted during the 2010 CBD COP 10 in Nagoya. A preliminary assessment conducted under the auspices of the High-Level Panel on Global Assessment of Resources for Implementing the CBD Strategic Plan for 2011-2020, estimated that the global investment required amounts to between 130 and 440 billion US$ annually. However, the current global expenditures for biodiversity conservation amount at 52 billion US$ annually according to a report from the Global Canopy Programme. These global estimations are currently not based on accurate national level calculations. Therefore, a bottom-up approach was considered as most appropriate to address the biodiversity finance challenges in a comprehensive manner, building a sound business case for finance solutions implementation in biodiversity conservation.

In this context and by the next CBD COP 11 in 2012, UNDP and the European Commission had launched The Biodiversity Finance Initiative - BIOFIN. It was soon joined by the Governments of Germany and Switzerland, followed by the Governments of Norway and Flanders in 2014. As of July 2015, the joint contributions of BIOFIN’s five partners stand at USD 29 million, and the total number of core countries involved at 30. 

The overarching objective of BIOFIN is to deliver a new methodological framework, facilitating the identification, development and implementation of optimal and evidence-based finance plans and solutions. BIOFIN is coordinated by UNDP through a global team developing and updating the BIOFIN methodology, supporting its implementation in the countries, and developing capacities at national and global level on biodiversity finance. A first version of this methodology, summarised in the 2014 BIOFIN Workbook, was launched at CBD COP-12 (October 2014). In response to early developments, the High-level Panel on Global Assessment of Resources in the second report published at COP-12 in its first recommendation suggested an upscaling of BIOFIN. Early 2015, BIOFIN analysed gaps, lessons learned and best practises in the application of the methodology in the 30 countries of implementation. Building on a wealth of lessons learnt, the 2016 BIOFIN Workbook was developed and published on December 2016 during the CBD COP 13. 

In addition, to enable all the CBD Parties to access BIOFIN lessons learnt and biodiversity finance knowledge, BIOFIN together with the CBD launched the Regional Nodes during the CBD COP 13 on December 2016. The CBD-BIOFIN Regional Nodes aim at supporting countries not participating to the BIOFIN's programme with targeted technical support and knowledge sharing.

The first phase of the initiative was form 2012-2018 and Phase two is underway until 2022.