Investing in a Future For Forests: Yale Panel Uncovers the Secret to Financially Sustainable Restoration

by | March 7, 2022 | Finance and Economics, Landscape Restoration and Management

In June 2021, the United Nations launched the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration to address the global crises of biodiversity loss, pollution, poverty and climate change through the prevention and reversal of land degradation. Responding to the UN’s call to action, the Yale International Society of Tropical Foresters dedicated its 28th annual conference to analyzing how to enact sustainable and scalable forest restoration efforts within the 10-year deadline. The society brought academics, practitioners, activists, policy makers, artists, journalists and community leaders together for the virtual conference, “Rethinking Restoration and Recovery: Landscapes of the Past, Present and Future in the Tropics,” on January 27-29, 2022.  

EcoAgriculture Partners Manager Juan Ramos joined Bryan McCann, Vice President for Markets at Emergent, and Hege Ragnhildstveit, Senior Adviser at the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), to examine the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in financing forest management projects to prioritize climate while protecting biodiversity and livelihoods during the conference’s panel discussion, “Financing Forest Protection and Restoration.” Each of the panelists presented examples from their experiences leveraging finance for forest protection and restoration initiatives. Ramos highlighted the importance of integrated landscape finance as a tool to support forest landscapes, citing the recent work of the 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People initiative to develop and implement new, more sustainable models of landscape investments. 

Ragnhildstveit discussed the key role of public and private partnerships in advancing results-based projects and promoting sustainable markets. She explained how private sector innovation has improved data collection and monitoring for tropical forest projects that Norway has invested in, thus allowing NICFI to ensure return on investment. She also cited Norway’s involvement in the LEAF (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance) Coalition, a $1 billion public-private partnership for forest conservation, as an example of how public and private partnerships can align global climate commitments while incentivizing investment in forest protection and restoration.

McCann, who convenes the LEAF Coalition at Emergent, also stressed the importance of catalyzing funding from both the private sector and donor countries to sustain forest protection projects in recipient countries. Using Ghana as an example, McCann explained how the LEAF Coalition may reduce driving factors for deforestation by leveraging finance for forest-friendly agricultural programs and policies that promote economic resilience amongst smallholder farmers, those most likely to clear forests to make up for low yields and meet high demands.

Juan Ramos spoke about the potential of integrated landscape management and finance to resolve the conflicting interests that give rise to forest degradation. Ramos explained that forests are complicated landscapes historically governed in sectoral manners. Sectoral management fails to account for conflicting agricultural, environmental and industrial demands upon land use. Integrated landscape management provides a natural solution to the challenge of sectoral development by including all stakeholders in forest management processes and considering their conflicting interests when determining development priorities.

Ramos rounded out the discussion by explaining how forest restoration projects require an integrated finance approach to ensure their sustainability amidst competing demands, 

To protect forests, we have to think about competing needs within a landscape – including livelihoods and development objectives – and try to understand how forests fit into those frameworks. For example, forests impact water sources which means forest investments must unfold in a sequential and coordinated way to make sure water is effectively managed,” Ramos says.

According to Ramos, a robust landscape-wide investment portfolio with multi-sectoral investments and multi-stakeholder involvement can clarify investment priorities, bolster governance and promote synergies that maximize investment impacts within a landscape.  As a result, forest management processes will unfold in a collaborative manner that benefits development, livelihoods and the land. Ramos demonstrated this point by showing how the 1000 Landscapes initiative has supported the scaling efforts of the Alto Mayo landscape in San Martín, Peru through the implementation of a landscape investment portfolio. 

The panel revealed encouraging developments in private and public sector coordination to fund forest protection and restoration initiatives. Indeed, public and private sector partnerships play an increasingly key role in incentivizing, streamlining and scaling forest protection and restoration. However, they are just one part of a complex ecosystem of finance that must converge at a landscape level to effectively address the socioeconomic factors driving deforestation.