Responsible investment to combat land degradation emerges from Dragons’ Den

Village of Nalma, Nepal. CIFOR/Mokhamad Edliadi
7 May 2018

WASHINGTON (Landscape News) – Restoring degraded land could inject $84 billion a year to the global economy, according to researchers, but public resources fall short of unlocking this potential.

Enter the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Fund, which aims to help fill the funding gap by investing in projects on land rehabilitation and sustainable land management worldwide. The scope of its initial target is $300 million.

A first-of-its kind mechanism, the fund was initially presented at the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Investment Case Symposium in London as part of the “Dragons’ Den” competition, and it aims to leverage public resources to raise private money.

Through the initiative, public funders are expected to de-risk investments by private investors while simultaneously advancing climate and sustainable development goals.

Investments include enterprises in sustainable agriculture and livestock management; agro-forestry; sustainable forestry, renewable energy, infrastructure development and eco-tourism.

PRACTICAL SOLUTION

Launched at the GLF symposium held during the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Ordos, China in 2017, the fund was brokered by the UNCCD and is managed by the responsible investment firm Mirova.

According to the UNCCD, the LDN Fund aims to “promote healthy land as an investment in the future that can create green jobs, ensure food security and help address the effects of climate change.”

In other words, goals include boosting investments that not only bring about financial returns, but also environmental and socio-economic benefits.

This vision aligns with UNCCD’s efforts to ensure that, from 2030, the amount of degraded land worldwide is equivalent to or less than what had been degraded by 2015 when the U.N. anti-poverty Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted. The 17 SDGs cut across various sectors, but SDG 15 was specifically designed to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss by 2030.

The LDN Fund gained further momentum at the One Planet Summit held in Paris in December 2017, where it was showcased as an initiative that crafts practical solutions to global environmental challenges.

On that occasion, the investment vehicle welcomed its first private sector investor. Canada’s Fondaction joined the European Investment Bank (EIB), the French Agency for Development, the government of Luxembourg, the Global Environmental Facility, the World Wildlife Fund, and the French Foundation, which had already contributed a total of $100 million.

LANDSCAPE APPROACH

The fund aims to address land degradation at a landscape level, bringing together multiple stakeholders for a more coordinated, sustainable approach to natural resource management.

The landscape approach seats smallholders, communities, regulators, academic researchers and corporations around the same table, uniting them to manage trade-offs among competing land uses, sectoral policies and individual interests to maximize benefits for people and the planet.

“The protection of vital ecosystem services goes hand in hand with safeguarding against potential large-scale land acquisitions that run counter to environmental standards and the interests of local communities,” UNCCD states.

Besides supporting land rehabilitation, the fund is intended to scale up sustainable business models on restored land.

According to the initiative, numerous small-scale projects around the world are proving to be more profitable than unsustainable alternatives.

“The main reason for creating this fund was that the scale of such efforts is still small to the areas of land already degraded,” points out the UNCCD.

NEW PROJECTS

The 2016 GLF Investment Case Symposium in London was instrumental in facilitating the connections between the various stakeholders and sectors, bringing the project into the limelight.

The third annual GLF Investment Case Symposium, to be held on May 30 in Washington D.C under the theme “Building the Investment Case for Sustainable Landscapes and Restoration,” will also give new projects a chance to make their case to top-level investors.

At the upcoming “Dragons’ Den” competition, entrepreneurs will pitch investment ready projects in landscape management or restoration that seek financing of between $5 million and $250 million.

Initiatives that strive to prove it is possible to boost environmentally, socially and financially sustainable approaches to land use worldwide in similar fashion to the LDN Fund.

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