While the field of resiliency investing is continuing to innovate, emerge and mature, it was incredibly clear from these conference participants and field practitioners that we covered measurable and significant ground since we gathered one year ago.
From its present stance as the only nation that is not a member of the Paris Agreement to its reduction of public lands protections at the federal and state level, the United States appears be failing to lead on environmental causes when compared to other developed nations. But while voters elected the officials who implemented many of these policies, the public seems to care deeply about conservation, as shown by popular voting behaviors for ballot measures.
Forward-thinking nonprofits and environmentally driven investors are increasingly using blueprint reports to help develop conservation finance markets. Blueprints are in-depth proposals designed to provide investors and stakeholders with creative ways to source cash flows and investment opportunities within key conservation areas.
As more investors are investing in “green” sectors like sustainable agriculture, the lack of traction of small-scale conservation initiatives is unfortunate. After all, food security and livelihood creation are at the core of the agriculture sector’s influence on developing economies.
In addition to benefiting the environment, on-farm conservation practices tend to create economic value for farmers and surrounding communities. Anecdotal examples of these benefits abound – fertilizer efficiency saves farmers money, no-till agriculture lowers labor and fuel expenses, and buffers and wetlands reduce downstream flood risks and drinking-water-treatment costs.
The Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) stands out as a valuable tool for innovative conservation projects to gain access to startup capital and to meet the demand for private investment on working lands. In June 2017, NRCS announced a new cohort of CIG awardees in the Conservation Finance category with a total of $8.8 million in funding across 11 projects.
It’s no secret that land trusts nationwide are facing dwindling grant-funding sources for their land-acquisition work. They are being pushed to test new forms of financing. At Rally 2017: National Land Conservation Conference, which ran from Oct. 25-28 in Denver, three land trusts shared their experiences with one of these new tools – selling forest-carbon credits.
As decision makers gathered at COP23 this November in Bonn, Germany, they considered strategies that could empower them to reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Financing sustainable infrastructure is one of the keys to putting these goals in motion. According to Laura Canas da Costa, senior advisor in sustainable infrastructure financing at WWF Switzerland, developing nations will be building extensive amounts of infrastructure as they pursue the SDGs. Traditionally, up to 70 percent of infrastructure financing comes from the public sector.
As severe wildfires leave their charred mark on the western United States this season, Conservation Finance Network interviewed Blue Forest Conservation staff about the Forest Resilience Bond project. This massive collaboration is bringing private finance to bear on ecological restoration to reduce the risk of these catastrophes.
Vertical farming enterprises have faltered and a decade of low interest rates has caused many industries to express frustration. However, although progress has been rocky, the ecosystem is fueling what may become an urban-food-system transformation.
How do investment funds build social and environmental priorities into agricultural financing? Several investment funds showcased their strategies for investing in smallholder value chains at the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris on Dec. 5-6. While continuing to seek financial returns, investors are supporting and measuring a broader set of environmental, social, and commodity-based outcomes tied to supply chain sustainability.
As conservation finance gains more traction among mainstream investors, discussions about how to evolve early-stage environmental marketplaces to provide more conventional investment opportunities have taken over the halls of conferences. Integrated capital funds may offer one solution.
There has long been a perceived tradeoff between the economic benefits of agriculture and the environmental benefits of conservation. Large-scale implementation of climate-smart agriculture holds promise to harmonize these objectives by integrating crop production with conservation efforts.
The White House has issued a directive to point federal agencies toward building ecosystem services valuation into their plans, investments and regulations. This directive, released on Oct. 7, will help agencies synthesize conservation’s ecosystem benefits with its value to society.
A new forum has emerged for discussing key issues in the rapidly growing and evolving conservation finance field: the Conservation Finance Practitioner Roundtable. The group met for the first time on Jan. 20 at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City.