Great Bear Rainforest
PFP funds support the management of 21 million acres of coastal rain forest in British Columbia, Canada, and promote sustainable development among the area’s First Nations peoples. The region’s significance is due in large part to its status as the largest intact coastal temperate rain forest in the world. Great Bear is also a major carbon store, an important location for salmon species, and one of the few areas where apex predators such as bears continue to thrive. The PFP deal secured important large-scale protection for the region and established new practices in conservation that helped lead to Forever Costa Rica.
Forever Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations, harboring about as many species as all of North America in an area slightly larger than Switzerland. PFP financing has helped the Costa Rican government to maintain its current funding level for its protected areas, which constitute just over one-fourth of the country’s territory; slightly expand and significantly improve management of its protected areas on land; and double or triple its marine protected areas and secure them from overfishing, pollution, and various effects of climate change. Conservation metrics now being monitored include the health of reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, sea turtle nesting beaches, estuaries, marine mammals, and seabird rookery sites.
Amazon Region Protected Areas
When this PFP deal closed in 2014, ARPA became the world’s largest tropical forest conservation program. Its goal is to permanently protect about 150 million acres—a network of protected areas that spreads across a geography larger than Western Europe. Already, about $4 million from the ARPA transition fund has been authorized for disbursement in protected areas—to pay for gasoline for patrol boats; surveillance flyovers in small planes; lodging for guards and firefighters; and staff time for inclusive, participatory management, as well as monitoring and research.
Taking the long view
“The key advantage of PFP is that it can change the trajectory of conservation in a country,” says Larry Linden, a former managing director of Goldman Sachs, a former WWF board chairman, founder of the New York–based Linden Trust for Conservation, and a principal architect of the PFP approach in Costa Rica and Brazil. “It’s an intervention, really, where you take a moment in time—two or three years, which is how long it can take to negotiate one of these agreements—and by mobilizing the world of funders, conservation leaders, and the government itself, you can shift a country in an upward, positive direction.” The challenge is massive. WWF estimates that there is a shortfall of nearly $1.7 billion annually between existing funding and what’s required to adequately manage protected areas in developing countries. “That’s a big gap, and because of that gap, these areas are under threat and being lost or degraded every year,” Dillon says. “What the PFP approach can do is identify those countries where this solution is needed and where it can work.”
Guillermo Castilleja, chief program officer for environmental conservation at the Palo Alto–based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation—the nation’s largest private foundation dedicated to preserving biodiversity—says that PFP is attractive to donors in large part because it spells out the exact goals, scope, and duration of a project well before the donor is required to write the actual check at the closing.
“PFP ensures that we are not just putting money into a project that has no chance to get the results we want,” says Castilleja, who worked at WWF before moving to the foundation. “We can put money into other projects, but in some cases we have much less transparency, or the contributions and expectations aren’t clear. We believe that is not a very efficient way of doing things. What we like about PFP, on the other hand, is that it brings transparency and visibility to a bigger, higher-level deal that helps us really understand—through complementarity, rigor, and good financial analysis—what difference we’re making.”
But the task of scaling up PFP around the world won’t be easy. According to Linden, a combination of several conditions must be in place at a particular moment in a country’s history for the approach to be successfully applied. These conditions include large ecosystems that are intact enough to justify a major conservation effort; strong donor interest and awareness of a particular country’s international profile and strategic importance; unwavering political support from the national government, especially at its highest levels; and good governance in a country with a well-organized national parks system, a credible legal system, and a significant track record of honoring its agreements.
“In the three countries where PFP has been done—Canada, Costa Rica, and Brazil—you did have this combination of things,” Linden says. “But the key to scaling up PFP is to be extremely selective, extremely targeted in terms of where and when you do it. If you have an anti-environmental government, then you’re not going to get anything done, obviously. If the parks department is poorly managed, you’re not going to fix that with this type of project. If the government is highly corrupt, or the country is in a civil war, there’s no point in trying this there. The court system has to be working. When you write an agreement in a country, there has to be a history of keeping agreements there. You don’t have to trust that the bargain will be kept; you have to know it.”
What’s more, he says, donors are more likely to engage if they are familiar with a country and its significance in terms of biodiversity. “It’s very hard to sell conservation to big donors if people don’t already have a real awareness of the country. Brazil and Costa Rica, for example, are known to be important. But if you’re talking about lesser-known places in Latin America and Africa, for example, too many people still say, ‘Where’s that?’”
Bhutan, on the other hand, strikes Linden as fertile ground. “It’s a beautiful country with lots of great biodiversity to be saved,” he says. “It’s got a supportive populace and a supportive government. It’s strategically important, because it’s on the border between China and India. And it has a very strong political commitment at the very top, by the king and the prime minister, to preserving the biodiversity they’ve got. For all those reasons, PFP has a good chance for success there.”