Bhutan for Life
WWF has already secured approval for its first GCF-financed project: a $26.6 million investment to help manage a five million-acre network of protected areas in Bhutan, a small Eastern Himalayan nation bordered by China and India.
Bhutan is the only country in the world to commit to remaining carbon-neutral, and is currently carbon-negative, with its forests absorbing nearly three times more carbon dioxide than the country emits each year. Today, those forests cover nearly three quarters of Bhutan, and 51 percent of the country’s land has been designated for protection. To finance the management of these protected areas, the Royal Government of Bhutan and WWF came together to launch an initiative dubbed Bhutan for Life.
Here’s how it works: the government, WWF, visionaries and business leaders created a detailed, performance-based plan to effectively manage the nation’s protected areas. Then they took that plan to potential investors, gathering $43 million for a transition, or “bridge fund,” that will cover the cost of managing those areas for a period of 14 years. During that time, the government will gradually take on more of the cost of conservation, until it eventually assumes full responsibility. This Wall-Street-inspired financing model is called a multi-party, single closing deal, meaning all investors deposit their funds at exactly the same time — when and only when they reach the full fundraising goal.
Bhutan for Life’s financing model has a proven track record. In 2014, the government of Brazil used the same model to secure $215 million for the proper management of 150 million acres of protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon. The initiative, known as ARPA for Life, was the largest tropical rain forest conservation project ever conceived.
As an accredited implementing partner of the GCF, WWF aspires to pursue other large-scale projects around the world. Climate change is a complex, global challenge. We must offer solutions big and bold enough to match it.