Whether it’s climate change, biodiversity loss, the degradation of water and land, or social, economic and political inequality, taking action to conserve tropical forests is hailed as one of the most effective ways to address multiple ills. Real progress in overcoming divisions and actually stopping tropical deforestation while enhancing the well-being and livelihoods of local residents has been hard to come by, however.
Encouragingly, new partnerships and collaboration between traditionally antagonistic groups–environmental NGOs, big business and, at times, national governments–are building new pathways for sustainable development.
On May 21, for example, the Brazilian government, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and partners announced the launch “of a $215 million fund to ensure the long-term protection of the world’s largest network of protected areas–150 million acres (two Californias’ worth) of Brazilian Amazon rain forest.”
The Amazon Protected Areas Program
The Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (ARPA) aims to protect 15 percent of threatened tropical rain forest ecosystems in the Brazilian Amazon. The ability to raise the capital necessary to establish and maintain the network of protected areas was a key driver in concluding the landmark agreement, “and sets a precedent for large-scale biodiversity conservation,” according to WWF.
Nations with large, rapidly developing economies, such as Brazil, have often argued and reserved the right to pursue the same, or at least similar, paths of economic development taken by industrially developed world leaders such as the European Union (EU), the U.S. and Japan. Those opposed counter that more dynamic, equitable and sustainable alternative development pathways have opened up and should be pursued. By establishing ARPA, Brazil is charting such a course.
The Brazilian government; WWF; the nonprofit Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (FUNBIO); Larry Linden, founder of the Linden Trust for Conservation (LTC); and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation teamed up to create the long-term financing plan for ARPA that was crucial to establishing the protected areas network.
ARPA’s innovative financing plan gathers funds from a variety of public and private-sector partners, including the German government, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the United Nations Global Environment Facility and WWF. It also breaks new ground in terms of providing “the first-ever opportunity to properly manage and monitor a large-scale protected area system,” WWF explains in a news release.
ARPA spans some 128-million acres of “richly bio diverse rainforest – the size of one-and-a-half Californias,” WWF highlights. Some of the funds raised will be used to add another 22 million acres in coming years.
Highlighting the importance of ARPA’s creation, WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts stated:
“The explosion in demand for natural resources has made our parks and world heritage sites vulnerable. So we convened leading financial thinkers and philanthropic partners to create a plan for a first-of-its-kind bridge fund to ensure ARPA’s inspiring success story can be told forever.”
A landmark agreement for biodiversity conservation
Looking to deliver on its commitment to conserve at least 10 percent of its Amazon rain forest, Brazil’s government originally created the ARPA program in 2002. As WWF Brazil CEO Cecilia Wey de Brito explained:
“The Brazilian rainforest is at the heart of our country. It is what defines us. The Brazilian government’s leadership in helping to create and maintain this fund provides us with more confidence than ever that we can slow the arc of deforestation in our rainforest and create a model for large-scale conservation worldwide.”
The $215 million in ARPA funds will be disbursed gradually, starting at a high level that will be reduced over time. Disbursing funds in this manner will enable Brazil “to steadily increase its internal funding and assume full responsibility for funding in perpetuity by the time the bridge fund is depleted approximately 25 years from now,” WWF adds.
Images credit: 1) & 3) WWF; 2) FUNBIO