Unlock capital flows to pursue climate and development goals

Conference delegates gather for the Global Landscapes Forum Third Investment Case Symposium in Washington.
Gloria Pallares
31 May 2018

WASHINGTON (Landscape News) — At the current pace, the world is likely to miss the 1.5 degree target embedded in the U.N. Paris Agreement on climate and is most likely to end up in a three-degree world for at least a few decades, warned Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) director general Robert Nasi.

“We must all begin to do the work of adapting to a much warmer and uncertain global climate, and no one has more to lose, or gain or contribute –and that is why we are here today—than the private and financial sectors,” said Nasi at the opening of the Third Global Landscape Forum Investment Case Symposium in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.

The event, hosted by the World Bank, brings together 250 delegates from industry, the financial sector, academia, civil society and multilateral organizations discuss how to align the financial system with sustainable goals.

The challenge of funding the restoration of more than 2 billion hectares of degraded land worldwide, a footprint larger than South America. Land degradation is estimated to cost the global economy from $2 to $4.5 trillion a year, while economic benefits of restoration efforts are an estimated $84 billion a year.

At least 7 million hectares of tropical forest landscapes are cleared and degraded each year, putting livelihoods, biodiversity, and food security at risk, exacerbating climate change, conflict and human migration.

Nasi recognized the importance of good public policies and funding to advancing climate and development goals. However, he noted: “The greatest opportunity for holding back the rise of the global al temperatures lies in undertaking fundamental changes in the way that the private economy does business.”

Laura Tuck, vice president of sustainable development at the World Bank touched on the need to use public resources and expertise to leverage private funds. The case for investing in sustainable and productive landscapes, she said, is compelling.

“Natural capital is a critical element of the wealth countries have, especially developing ones. We must preserve it so that it continues to generate benefits in perpetuity,” Tuck said.

A NEW ASSET CLASS

Unlocking the billions necessary to achieve climate, sustainability and restoration goals will take partnerships across sectors and industries, said Jennifer Price CEO of Calvert Impact Investment and keynote speaker Jennifer Pryce.

For her, “the big issue is how we create an asset class the traditional financial market can invest in,” the way it has been done with renewable energies. Another key to scaling up sustainable businesses is connecting them to traditional financial markets. “Otherwise, we will leave them stranded.”

To put capital to work, “actors must understand where they fit in the financial supply chain,” Pryce said, depending on the kind of capital they have, how much they have and where they are housing it.

Actors — be they philanthropists, individual average-income citizen or multilateral agencies — must also understand the development of the market to invest the right capital at the right time.

“We must let go of silos and be honest about what we can do,” she reiterated.

BIGGER AND FASTER

During a discussion, founding president and CEO of Forest Trends Michael Jenkins agreed on the need to “shift away from supporting individual [sustainability] projects towards a much larger scale, so that we are really creating an asset class.”

For Jenkins, pace, scale of investment portfolios and collaboration across sectors will be instrumental to pushing forward the global climate, restoration and sustainability agenda. Pace is crucial, he said, because the window of opportunity offered by the SDGs will eventually close.

Nasi urged retooling the private finance so that it not only funds transformational change, but also incorporates changes as a condition for lending that make sustainable development a good business practice. “In a 3ºC warmer world, the winners will be the people, governments and companies who invest now in mitigating or adapting to these changes,” he concludes.