Colombia, WWF, and Partners Announce $245M Agreement to Permanently Protect Vital Systems of Nation’s Protected Areas

Funding provides protection to critical marine and terrestrial ecosystems across Colombia, which is home to 10% of the world’s biodiversity.

June 23, 2022, BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Today, the Government of Colombia, with a broad coalition of community, public sector, and private sector partners, demonstrated their commitment to long-term conservation in Colombia by signing a joint declaration to launch a new Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) initiative called Heritage Colombia (or Herencia Colombia in Spanish), which secures $245 million USD of public and private finance to permanently protect 32 million hectares of iconic Colombian landscapes and seascapes.

This initiative will facilitate significant progress toward Colombia’s 30X30 target to protect 30% of its land and 30% of its seas by 2030 and locks in a regional cluster of PFP initiatives that, together, provide permanent protections for approximately 12% of the entire Amazon rainforest.

The announcement was made by President Iván Duque, during an event at the Casa de Nariño for the signing of the joint declaration that defines the closing conditions of the Heritage Colombia PFP. The initiative will secure the lasting conservation of new or expanded areas in the heart of the Amazon, the San Lucas Mountains, the Central Andes, the Orinoco Transition and the Caribbean Coast, and opens the door to new and expanded marine protected areas in the Caribbean and Pacific—achieving Colombia’s goal of protecting 30% of its oceans and seas.

The Eastern Tropical Marine Corridor is a swimway for many migratory species that travel between MPAs. It is a biologically and ecologically significant area where humpback whales, sharks, ridley and leatherback turtles, and birds, such as cormorants and pelicans, migrate, feed, and nest.

WWF recognizes our partners in this effort: Andes Amazon Fund, Bezos Earth Fund, Becht Family Charitable Trust, Blue Nature Alliance, Bobolink Foundation, Carmen Busquets, Conservation International, European Union, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Enduring Earth, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Government of Colombia, Global Environment Facility, Inter-American Development Bank, Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) of the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia, National Natural Parks, Patrimonio Natural, Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy, Tammy and Bill Crown, The Nature Conservancy, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Bank, Wyss Foundation, and ZOMALAB.

“Herencia Colombia makes use of Project Finance for Permanence as an innovative financing mechanism which brings together the private sector, civil society and the Colombian Government to preserve natural capital in perpetuity,” said Sandra Valenzuela, the Executive Director of WWF-Colombia. “This is a commitment to have a stronger Protected Area System in Colombia to support the preservation of the megadiverse country for future generations and to contribute for the wellbeing of local communities.”

“For us, the territory is life itself. Without territory, we have nothing,” said Emigdio Pertuz, Legal Representative of the Cocomanorte Community Council, located in Acandí Playona Fauna Sanctuary. “Herencia Colombia will contribute to strengthening the community councils, their statements, and the extension of protected areas. For us, this means an effective and real contribution that guarantees our survival within the territory, and therefore, it guarantees our lives.”

The PFP approach is a powerful tool to accelerate the pace and scale of large-scale, long-lasting conservation. Adaptable to the needs and goals of each specific context, PFPs secure necessary policy changes and funding and bind them together in a single agreement. This ensures large-scale systems of conservation areas are well-managed, sustainably financed, and benefit the communities who depend on them. By implementing core strategies for durable biodiversity protection and climate change mitigation—including community engagement, sustainable finance mechanisms, policy, and capacity-building of local and national organizations—PFPs ensure long-term conservation.

“The crises of climate change and biodiversity loss stand as the two great challenges of our time. And we know that the conservation of nature can help both,” said Carter Roberts, the President and CEO of WWF-US. “This transaction matters because it will help finance the long-term protection of 32 million hectares of Colombia’s most treasured places. But it also matters because it charts a course for other nations to follow in financing the protection of their own landscapes and seascapes. That’s the vision behind the new Enduring Earth collaboration between WWF and our partners—The Nature Conservancy, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and ZOMALAB, the family office of Ben and Lucy Ana Walton. Together, we aim to help more countries replicate the kind of progress celebrated here today.”

The Enduring Earth partnership is committed to using the PFP approach to accelerate conservation and community development around the world. In the last 20 years, five of these finance and governance transactions have been completed in Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, and Peru, mobilizing more than $1.5 billion USD to permanently fund protected area systems covering 93 million hectares. Enduring Earth’s goal is to deliver 20 PFP transactions by 2030 to enable nations to accelerate durable conservation that benefits local communities and achieves biodiversity, climate, and sustainable development goals.

“By protecting key landscapes and seascapes, Herencia Colombia creates important connectivity throughout the Andes-Amazon region and the Eastern Tropical Pacific, delivering vital benefits for Colombians and our broader global climate efforts in this decisive decade,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, CEO of Bezos Earth Fund, the largest private donor to the initiative. “We believe Colombia can be a model for other countries who have ambitions to protect 30% of their land and waters, and the PFP approach is a proven tool to enable nations to meet their goals.”

Protected areas are more than just havens for wildlife—they are a critical nature-based solution to the climate crisis and provide significant benefits to people by slowing nature loss and protecting ecosystems that provide for people. The overall goal of the Herencia Colombia PFP is to secure permanent protection for vital marine and terrestrial ecosystems and their surrounding landscapes throughout Colombia, putting the rights and needs of local communities and Indigenous peoples at the center of conservation efforts.

Over 10 years, the Herencia Colombia PFP will support the creation of over 3 million hectares of new terrestrial and around at least 15 million hectares of new marine protected areas to improve the management of existing national, regional, and private landscapes and maintain ecosystems services that millions of Colombians rely on for clean air and water, food, medicines, and livelihoods.

“The Andes-Amazon is vital for the world’s global biodiversity and climate goals, and Herencia Colombia will consolidate enormous conservation gains across the region,” said Aileen Lee, Chief of Programs at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which has supported previous PFPs in Costa Rica, Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, Brazil, and Peru. “The PFP tool is a proven approach, and we are proud to support Colombia’s leadership and ambitious program to safeguard its terrestrial and marine resources for the benefit of people and planet.”

Today’s announcement recognizes the current commitment Colombia Government has made to its national system of protected areas and adds an additional $245 million dollars to provide durable financing for marine and terrestrial landscapes across Colombia.

This press release was originally published by World Wildlife Fund