There is a high level of uncertainty about federal funding for land conservation over the next four years. The recently passed 2017 budget has kept many conservation-related programs and funds intact, but 2018 may be a different story. The administration’s proposed budget calls for broad cuts to conservation funding, but Congress makes the final decision on appropriations.
How can the growing community of practice around natural capital approaches continue to engage, learn and adapt? The 2017 Natural Capital Symposium discussed this question at Stanford University on Mar. 20-23. A key session was titled “Securing Freshwater through Innovative Public and Private Partnerships.” This session showed examples of innovations that often required partnerships between public and/or private institutions, development banks, and civil society.
Consider this: The $400 billion in private environmental finance needed annually, according to Credit Suisse and McKinsey & Company, is eight times even the more generous current estimates of conservation finance. Practitioners and experts gathered last month at the New York City office of Credit Suisse to explore how to bridge that gap and meet the conservation objectives of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Conservation Finance Network cohosted the event. Here are some key insights from the conversation.
Investors and bond issuers must improve communication in order to meet each other’s needs as the green-bond market expands rapidly. Green bonds have the potential to enhance transparency, mitigate risk, and stimulate the market toward reaching a low-carbon economy. The green-bond market is estimated to total $150 billion in 2017. This is an 85 percent increase above 2016, according to data from Climate Bonds Initiative.
Unexpectedly, Root Capital and Kiva have joined forces to create an unprecedented referral system that will cross-pollinate their sustainable-agriculture-finance programs. Root Capital is routing approved applications in the $10,000-$50,000 range to Kiva for zero-percent-interest financing. Once these businesses grow, they can apply for larger amounts of financing at competitive interest rates from Root Capital.
Dramatic increases in investment in conservation over the last decade are the focus of a new report authored by Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace, “State of Private Investment in Conservation 2016.” The report sheds light on the many dimensions that drove growth between 2004 and 2015.
In September, Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) signed AB 2480 into law. This bill established that “source watersheds are recognized and defined as integral components of California’s water infrastructure.” The conservation think tank Pacific Forest Trust created the bill together with its author, Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica).
The most recent A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES) conference, which sought to advance science, practice, and decision-making around ecosystem services, exhibited a variety of examples of collaboration between science and finance. The conference was held Dec. 5 - 9 in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Conservation Finance Practitioner Roundtable gathered for its third time this year for two days in Washington, DC on Oct. 13-14. The event focused on four topics: the role of government in the creation of well-conceived policies and incentives, the need to increase collaboration between the private and public sectors, the conditions that are necessary to form and scale up conservation markets, and the current state of the soil carbon market.
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.