Financing permanent conservation
Costa Rica covers less than 0.1% of the Earth’s surface, but it’s home to as much as 5% of the planet’s biodiversity, making it a crucial target for conservation. Home to jaguars, sea turtles, coral reefs, and countless other species, Costa Rica’s rich ecosystems are endangered by harmful development, overfishing, logging, and other threats.
In 2007, when Costa Rican President Óscar Arias laid out an ambitious plan to protect the nation’s natural resources, many observers feared the vision would go unrealized. Costa Rica wanted to become the first developing nation to meet targets set by UN Convention on Biological Diversity, but it confronted the challenges of inadequate funding, management, and enforcement.
“Costa Rica Forever is a heady start, a sign that we’re ready to protect the world around us – now and forever after that.” – Time, October 15, 2010
Over the next three years, a diverse group of conservationists, finance experts, and government officials developed an innovative deal to permanently protect millions of hectares of vulnerable habitat. Rather than pursue conservation in a piecemeal fashion, the effort—Forever Costa Rica—adopted a comprehensive, landscape-level strategy that focuses on strengthening ecosystem resilience.
To develop Forever Costa Rica, Redstone partnered with the Linden Trust for Conservation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy to pioneer the Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) approach. PFP perpetually conserves ecosystems by constructing a single large deal that unites the full suite of stakeholders, resources, and commitments to achieve lasting protection at scale. Modeled after sophisticated financing for the private sector, PFP recognizes the interdependence among project elements and coordinates them so that investors can simultaneously make a large investment. It’s a common practice in the private sector for financing major projects, such as power plants, but it had been rarely used in the non-profit world.
Redstone led an extensive gap analysis, helping to identify and organize the complex political, social, ecological, and financial elements required for project success. By helping secure commitments from key stakeholders, Redstone and its partners helped expand the protected area system, improve management, strengthen relevant agencies, and establish a financing mechanism to cover recurring costs. The resulting $57 million funding package will ensure the ongoing health of critical and sensitive areas across Costa Rica for generations to come.
A paper on deals like Forever Costa Rica helps further illustrate the scope of impact the PFP approach can achieve.