Investing In Landscapes: Who Will Pay? - Business Media MAGS

Sunday Times Green

Investing In Landscapes: Who Will Pay?

Protecting biodiversity is not cheap. Money has to come from somewhere says Samantha Barnes.

Protecting the environment is an expensive business. The big question: who will finance it? South Africa faces a 64 per cent financial shortfall to address a multitude of environmental challenges, reckons the South African Natural Biodiversity Institute.

Addressing the challenge of funding requires innovative thinking. One shot at this is coming from Wilderness Foundation Africa (WFA) and World Wide Fund for Nature SA (WWF SA), which announced a new partnership at the end of last year to try and find new ways of encouraging investment in ecological infrastructure, the Sustainable Landscape Finance Coalition.

“The current underspend on environmental efforts is a critical shortcoming in addressing the global environmental crisis,” says Candice Stevens, fellow-chair for the coalition. “South Africa faces a substantial lack of financing and resources to ensure sustainability of our landscapes.”

Stevens is Innovative Finance lead at Wilderness Foundation Africa (WFA) and a biodiversity finance expert. She introduced the first effective biodiversity tax incentive into the South African protected areas network, and together with government, received the Pathfinder Award Special Commendation for this global innovation.

“Many landscapes,” she cautions, “present a risk for critical ecological services such as water, and for the livelihoods of millions of people, directly or indirectly affected.”

Beneficial and innovative finance solutions  

“We need innovation and collaboration between thought leaders, experts and stakeholders across public and private sectors,” says Stevens.  “This is the critical lever that WWF SA and WFA seek to facilitate through the coalition.”

“This is critical in providing enduring benefits for people, biodiversity and the economy,” says Hendrik Pfaff, co-chair of the coalition. Pfaff heads Sustainable Finance and Investment Solutions at WWF SA.

“WWF would like to see a South Africa that nurtures ecological integrity for the benefit of people and nature, which this innovative landscape finance initiative will support,” he says.

“If landscapes are to reach their full potential environmentally, socially and economically,” Stevens explains, “they require long-term financial sustainability and a cohesive conservation finance sector dedicated to this end.”

Domestic and industrial waste clogs our rivers and ends up in our oceans. Alien vegetation takes over tracts of land and sucks up vast volumes of water. Development is occurring in what should be protected wetlands.

The coalition believes that there is huge potential and value in protecting biodiversity in South Africa, which can be unlocked if key sectors become involved. These would include the investment sector, banking, legal, development, academia, civil society, national fiscal policy and the national environmental mandate.

Innovative finance mechanisms will “include testing new sustainable financial mechanisms, developing and attracting more investment into bankable projects, new key partnerships across financial and environmental sectors, and providing increased access to diversified funds, for example, debt finance and not just traditional funding models for NGOs or government fiscal allocations for government agencies,” says Stevens.

The coalition will address numerous environmental challenges simultaneously. “Most notably, biodiversity within multifunctional landscapes, when safeguarded, contributes to climate change resilience, improved human wellbeing, and emerging green economies,” says Stevens.

WWF SA and WFA have a dual vision to see sustainable finance for landscape conservation become a reality. Pfaff says: “This initiative will support the funding, redirecting and influencing of financial flows towards conservation and supports WWF’s vision of building a sustainable future in which people and nature thrive.”

Image: Olifants River

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