Editor’s note: From “climate adaptation” to “ecosystem services,” environmental jargon is everywhere these days. Conservation International’s Human Nature blog looks to make sense of it in an occasional explainer series we’re calling “What on Earth?”
In this installment, we break down “conservation finance,” which isn’t as dull as it sounds — and which might be the final frontier for protecting nature.
What is ‘conservation finance’?
“Conservation finance” refers generally to a range of financial mechanisms that can help fund the conservation of nature.
Ok. But why do we need to pay for conservation in the first place?
The short answer is that conservation is often just one choice among many that countries and communities make. For example, if you own an acre of tropical forest, leaving the forest in place likely won’t generate the income and livelihoods that you are seeking. So, you may sell the trees for timber and put a farm there — which will make you money in the short term but may not be sustainable over the long term.
Conservation finance seeks to flip that script by aligning incentives to make standing forests (or other ecosystems) more valuable standing than cut. This can create powerful monetary incentives to keep ecosystems intact while still accounting for people’s reliance on these places for their lives and livelihoods.