Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book highlights exemplary Conservation Finance initiatives…

A new book published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Conservation Capital in the Americas: Exemplary Conservation Finance Initiatives, is a collection of papers presented at a conference of the same name in Valdivia. The book was published in collaboration with the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

Edited by James Levitt of the Program on Conservation Innovation at the Harvard Forest, the collection is an insightful follow-up to his last book, From Walden to Wall Street: Frontiers of Conservation Finance. Authors reviewed many of the leading approaches to conservation finance used to protect land and biodiversity. These include carbon finance and ecosystem service markets to conserve forest lands, conservation investment banking methods such as debt-for-nature swaps, and the use of tax policies to finance conservation.

The following are just a few examples of insights taken from the case studies.

Chile’s Private Lands Conservation Initiative, reviewed by Henry Tepper, Victoria Alonso, Antonio Lara, and Rocio Urrutia:

  • Measured values of ecosystem services are usually greater than the operating costs of protected areas, so payments for ecosystem services would provide resources for conservation
  • A group of prominent business leaders joined the Chilean-American Chamber of Commerce and the Nature Conservancy to advocate for financial incentives including changes to tax laws to protect private lands
  • The effort was inspired by the land trust movement in the US, whose success was attributed to the development of legal instruments to protect private lands, notably conservation easements
  • An effort has been underway since 2008 to allow private landowners to put a derecho real de conservacion (real right of conservation) on designated lands to secure the perpetual protection of that land
Ecuador’s ChoCO2 Conservation Carbon project, reviewed by Ben Vitale, Tannya Lozada, and Luis Suarez:
  • Developing countries often have conflicting laws regarding land tenure, while Ecuador has clarified regulations that would be required for forest carbon ownership rights under a variety of land tenure circumstances
  • The Conservation International ChoCO2 project to restore 500 ha of native forest in the Choco-Manabi region of Ecuador is one of the few forestry projects developed as part of the CDM
  • The project is expected to sequester 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years, and Ricoh Company agreed to finance an annual stream of payments to cover the front-loaded projects costs
  • Project benefits must overcome the opportunity cost of land allocated to forest carbon projects, which may be possible by monetizing multiple ecosystem benefits that will diversify revenue
Costa Rica’s Payments for Ecosystem Services program, reviewed by Shannon Meyer:
  • Paying landowners to protect and sustainably manage forests benefits society at large by reducing soil loss and improving water quality, tourism and recreation benefits, biodiversity protection, and carbon storage
  • Rather than measuring each ecosystem service provided by protected forest land, the Costa Rica program assumes that every acre provides an identically valued bundle of services
  • The program was partially funded by a tax on gasoline, as well as by hydropower producers that benefited from the hydrological services provided by the conserved forest lands
  • The program also depended on financing from the World Bank, GEF, and KfW, while efforts to convince the ecotourism industry to internalize the cost of benefits provided by the conserved forests have not been successful
The book’s contributors are from prominent organizations including Conservation International, National Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, Open Space Institute, Pacific Forest Trust, Root Capital, and Trust for Public Land. Conservationists, project investors, and policymakers will benefit from the essays, which review the latest innovations in conservation finance and the use of emerging financial mechanisms to protect ecosystems and biodiversity.

Reflecting on the field of conservation finance and the success of the conference in Chile, Levitt sums up the issues: “How do we find the financial capital--as well as the human, social, and natural capital--to steward the earth’s resources for this and future generations? Where do we find the money, the talent, and the political will to do the jobs necessary to address complex threats to wildlife and habitat and to ecosystems that provide a spectrum of essential services that sustain life?”

Conservation Capital in the Americas provides at least some of the answers in this series of 14 essays written by recognized and emerging innovators from around the world in the field of conservation.