When we think about nature, we often assume it will be there forever. It has endured millions of years of evolution—why would it not continue to exist as such? Yet, the current reality is teaching us that for nature to continue in perpetuity, as a society, we must take deliberate action. To this end, in 2010, a new partnership set out on a path to conserve millions of hectares of habitat in Costa Rica, forever. Teeming with wildlife—sea turtles, sloths, jaguars, toucans, and hundreds of thousands of other species—the country boasts five percent of Earth’s biodiversity, though it barely covers 0.1 percent of the planet’s surface area. The initiative, Forever Costa Rica, represented a first-of-its-kind comprehensive strategy to bolster the resilience of the country’s thriving natural resources and ecosystems, and was launched through the single closing of a multi-party, public-private deal whose model has come to be called a "project finance for permanence," or PFP.
Accomplishments in the first decade
Ten years later, Costa Rica Forever has already begun to deliver on that initial promise. The structure of the project is sound in perpetuity, with both flexibility for adaptive management and also stability for effective governance built into the design. The financing allowed full support for sizeable but necessary one-time costs, and the endowment provides a funding stream for ongoing management costs that can supplement investment by the Costa Rican government. It also provided the cornerstone on which subsequent investments have been made to expand the conservation impact from the initial targets that had been set.
During the first decade, twenty-three million dollars have been invested through hundreds of projects to protect land and sea, with marine and terrestrial science-based conservation targets driving project implementation. As a result, protected areas have been expanded, new tools have been developed to improve their management, and new management plans have been created in collaboration with local communities and councils across Costa Rica. The program has also positioned Costa Rica as a leader in the region to spearhead necessary policy changes that integrate ecosystem services into economic plans and meet nationally determined commitments in international agreements such as the Paris Climate Accord.
A global model
For the Moore Foundation, where our Environmental Conservation Program focuses on conserving vast, intact sea and landscapes of global significance for future generations, the Costa Rican story is emblematic. Its vision of national-scale conservation and planning, combined with local-level benefits, is safeguarding reservoirs of biodiversity and systems of life support for the planet. The structure of Forever Costa Rica has also served as a model for collaboration, resource management, and financing that is being replicated and tailored in other places around the world.
Similar “PFP” projects have been cultivated across the Amazon, where they are now central to the foundation's Andes-Amazon Initiative and its work to ensure that protected areas in the region endure for future generations. (Outside South America, the foundation also supported the Great Bear Rainforest PFP.)
Brazil houses 74 percent of the world’s total protected areas due to its size (almost the size of the continental United States) and years of persistence by conservation organizations working with the government to establish conservation areas. Although recent news from Brazil is often focused on expansive wildfires and increased cases of COVID-19, the ARPA for Life (Amazon Region Protected Areas) program continues to represent a stronghold legacy aimed at ensuring the durability and permanent presence of sixty million hectares of protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon. ARPA for Life is the first PFP secured for the Amazon region that was signed into inception in May 2014 as a public-private alliance with the Government of Brazil, the Chico Mendez Institute, donors and partners such as World Wildlife Fund, the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund, the Linden Trust for Conservation, the Government of Germany, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation and the Global Environment Facility. To date, the project continues to ensure steady funding to increase effective protected area management and has leveraged even more resources from the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Norway and other donors.
As a complement to ARPA for Life, the Moore Foundation partnered with Brazil’s Development Bank to create the LIRA project to support the conservation and territorial management of an additional 80 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon especially on Indigenous territories and those protected areas not covered under ARPA for Life—areas that have been most affected by deforestation and wildfires. With joint funding for $15 million, the implementing agency, IPE, will manage a yearly call for proposals for the next four years.
In May 2019, the Moore Foundation, the Ministry of Environment of Peru, Peruvian Protected Areas Service, World Wildlife Fund, Peru’s Protected Areas Fund, Global Environment Facility and other partners launched Peru’s Natural Legacy as the second ambitious PFP to secure the expansion and improved management of seventeen million hectares of Peru’s Amazon protected areas, including ten Communal Reserves that are co-managed by community organizations. The $140 million fund leverages 1:1 donor funds and in-country government commitments to ensure the long-term financing of areas that protect critical headwaters in the Amazon basin. This past May, the partners, led by the Peruvian National Park Services and the Ministry of Environment, culminated the first year of the fund’s implementation. A unique innovation to this PFP is the inclusion of climate change funding from the Green Climate Fund that will invest in improving protected area management to make them more resilient to climate change.
More recently, the Andes-Amazon Initiative has expanded this commitment to Colombia by partnering with the Government of Colombia, the Colombian National Park Service, World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International, the Colombia Protected Areas Fund, and others to secure one more PFP called Heritage Colombia. The proposed $200 million fund will secure the long-term conservation and financing for 20 million hectares. Protected areas in Colombia are in a unique historical and geographic context where they have become hubs for peacebuilding after the Government of Colombia signed a Peace Accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerilla group ending a 50-year armed conflict. Heritage Colombia will target critical high-biodiversity regions across the country located in priority landscapes, including the Amazon region. The fund will not only leverage private and public donor funds, but unique in-country funding from Colombia’s newly created Carbon Tax and other financial mechanisms established as part of implementing the peace agreement.
The path ahead
Despite the many challenges that the global pandemic has brought, efforts like Costa Rica Forever and other PFPs offer ample hope for our future. And as COVID-19 has shown us, building from a base of ecosystem resilience has never been more important. Though much work remains, these projects show us a path to be able to w accomplish even loftier goals, together. Beyond the gains already achieved for biodiverse-rich forests and productive seas, ambitious private-public alliances, including these PFPs, are securing a brighter future and more hopeful legacy for the world, forever.