Last month’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 27th Conference of Parties (UNFCCC COP 27) brought forth many conversations around the value of landscape approaches in the fight against climate change. Over 35,000 attendees representing governments, civil society organizations and the private sector convened to propose solutions to our planet’s increasing climate crisis. Though debate on the overall success of the conference outcomes continues, the establishment of the loss and damage fund marks a critical turning point in support of communities most vulnerable to climate impacts. At the conference, 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion people funneled this ambition and took to the stage to co-host two events focused on harnessing local solutions and innovative finance to scale climate resilience.
During the first week of the conference, 1000L Partners from Climate-KIC, the Rainforest Alliance, Landscape Finance Lab, EcoAgriculture Partners and UNDP came together to highlight the need for transformative change in financing landscape-level projects in the side event, Deploying Finance to 1000 Landscapes by 2030. Through ‘integrated landscape finance’, local partnerships design a multi-sector set of landscape investments, coordinated to achieve regeneration at scale, and secure the diverse financing needed for these investments. 1000L partners have identified key building blocks for an effective system of integrated landscape finance, aiming to meet climate and SDGs in 1000 landscapes.
Jeff Milder, Director of Global Policy and Coalitions at the Rainforest Alliance set the scene for a packed audience by posing two critical questions: “Why landscapes? And why landscape finance”? In his introduction, Jeff highlighted how Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) and the synergistic elements of landscape approaches can be leveraged to tackle the complex and interconnected issues of biodiversity loss, land degradation and climate change. A key challenge, he said, is access to funding. Historically, funding for landscapes has come in the form of development assistance, philanthropy and governments. Unfortunately, this model of finance is both incomplete in scale and in scope. Solutions are often funded on a project by project basis, reinforcing silos among sectors. In addition to fragmented funding opportunities, there is a large gap in private sector investment and involvement. Landscape approaches, he noted, offer engaging opportunities for the private sector to deliver long-lasting impact and financial returns. He introduced the 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People initiative, a ‘radical collaboration’ of organizations working to strengthen landscape partnerships, including by mobilizing finance for landscape-wide transformation.
Daniel Zimmer, the Director of Sustainable Land Use at Climate-KIC and co-lead of the 1000L Finance Solutions Design Team outlined the current view of landscape finance and the outlook for its deployment. He noted that investors are often concerned that as the mosaic of landscape management elements multiply, so do the financial risks associated with the management plan. As such, the challenge lies in determining which type of capital is best suited for a certain type of landscape action. The hope, and a key goal of the 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People initiative, is to empower and develop local capacity to generate portfolios of investable landscape actions, with economic and ecological synergies among them that will actually reduce overall investment risks. Then the pathway for private sector engagement will become clearer and more attainable. He described the collaborative roadmap under development by the 1000 Landscapes partners to catalyze finance system innovation and scaling, working closely with landscape partnerships and with financial institutions. He invited participants in the COP27 event to join 1000L in co-designing and implementing the strategy.
The Path Forward: Panelists Highlight Essential Elements for Scaling Landscape Finance
Caroline van Leenders of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) then moderated the panel discussion. Leslie Johnston, CEO of the Laudes Foundation, Paul Chatterton, Founder and Lead of the Landscape Finance Lab, and Marcela Paranhos, Senior Investment Manager of IDH responded to Zimmer’s challenge by taking a deep dive into finance innovations and their potential to transform climate resilience across landscapes.
Leslie Johnston celebrated recent emerging partnerships with leading global fashion brands and beverage companies whereby private capital is flowing to landscape initiatives. These examples reinforced the need for landscapes to have strong links to markets in order to successfully scale ILM. Johnston closed with a call to action to consider landscapes as not only valuable for development, but also for business, “While it is important for philanthropy and concessional financing to de-risk investment for private companies, it is my plea to everyone to think of landscapes as a real business opportunity and not just another development philanthropy initiative.”
Panelists agreed that a transition to a systems-level landscape approach, though not easy, is essential if leaders truly want to access transformative financing for landscapes. Marcela Paranhos of IDH used her region of São Paulo Brazil as an example, citing their need for greater collaboration and coordination among stakeholders sharing the same landscape. From a finance perspective, she further noted a demand for increased emphasis on the resilience aspect of investments and targeted efforts to create an enabling environment that would fortify trust among investors to finance landscape-level projects.
Paul Chatterton shared his “Sheep Herding Hypothesis,” suggesting that in order to get more banks and private capital involved in integrated landscape finance, the movement first needs to prove itself with just a few examples of success before more of the private sector will be willing to take the leap. He also highlighted the importance of having legal support on the ground early so as to protect the structure and integrity of the initiative from bad actors.
Zimmer and Milder then had a stimulating debate regarding the risks involved in scaling investments. The two discussed the challenges associated with involving private companies when there is a mismatch between the level of perceived risk to the company, which is at the landscape scale, and the smaller portion of landscape-wide investment to which they are directly contributing.
Daniel closed out the panel outlining key elements of engaging and scaling financial support for landscape initiatives. “The three main considerations are trust, value, and risk,” he noted. “We must establish trust between landscape partners and investors, recognize the value of a systemic approach and convince the private sector of this value, and make the case that integrated landscape management actually minimizes risk to investors. These actions are what we need to deploy greater amounts of capital to landscapes in this crucial decade of climate action.”