New Private Conservation Initiative in China

Interesting development,

A group of wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs have started an experiment in private nature conservation, shaking up China’s traditional, government-led approach to protecting landscapes and wildlife.

Late last year, 16 of the best known figures from China’s business world applied to the provincial government of Sichuan, western China, for permission to establish the “Sichuan Nature Protection Fund”. Their names will be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of Chinese industry: Jack Ma, chairman of the Alibaba Group, Ou Yaping, founder of Sinolink Worldwide Holdings, Huang Nubo, chairman of Beijing Zhongkun Investment Group, and Hu Zuliu, of Chunhua Capital are all involved. So too are Guo Guangchan, co-founder of Shanghai Fosun High Technology, Niu Gensheng, founder of the Lao Niu Foundation, and Zheng Yonggang, chairman of Shanshan Investment Holdings.

There are plans to invite other big names: Tencent founder Ma Huateng, NetEase chief executive Ding Lei and Broad Air Conditioning founder Zhang Yue, among others.

A list like this makes it one of China’s richest philanthropic groupings. To become an executive director of the board, you need to make “an initial donation of at least 3 million yuan [US$457,000]”. After the project is formally launched, “a voluntary donation of at least 5 million yuan [US$762,000]” will be required. Continue reading

REDD+ funds for conservation?

Before getting all excited about using REDD funds for conservation, read this recent letter in Conservation Letters,

Risky business: an uncertain future for biodiversity conservation finance through REDD+
Jacob Phelps, Edward L. Webb, & Lian P. Koh

Abstract
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation and through the conservation, sustainable management, and enhancement of carbon stocks (REDD+) offers unprecedented potential funding for forest conservation and associated biodiversity. However, as a growing number of biodiversity conservation projects link with carbon emissions mitigation efforts, they might also be exposed to significant financial risks. REDD+ projects currently face uncertainty over future demand for carbon credits, the potential for inconsistent donor support in the long-term, carbon market volatility, investor preference for low-cost emissions mitigation over cobenefits, and the possibility of a shortlived REDD+ mechanism. The private sector is aware of the associated financial risks, which remain largely unaddressed within the conservation literature. Biodiversity conservationists need to identify a balance between maximizing near-term REDD+ opportunities and insulating themselves from long-term financial risks. We describe some of the prospective financial risks for biodiversity conservation efforts linked with REDD+, and propose initial strategies for financial resilience.

Problems using REDD for wildlife conservation

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) was set up to reduce greenhouse gases, with biodiversity conservation as a “co-benefit”.

It is therefore encouraging to see this project in Kenya, the Kasigau Corridor REDD Project,

WWC’s first project at Rukinga, Kenya, has been operating since 2005 protecting local wildlife and forests. The aim of this project is to bring the benefits of direct carbon financing to surrounding communities, while simultaneously addressing alternative livelihoods. Human-wildlife conflict has been a problem in the past, as local agents are reliant on flora and fauna as a means for subsistence. The Rukinga project directly addresses such sources of conflict in a holistic, sustainable approach. An additional goal is to secure a contiguous wildlife migration corridor between Tsavo East and West National Parks.

The project is being carried out by Wildlife Works Carbon LLC.

Our first REDD project in Rukinga, Kenya builds on a successful decade long track record, of bringing much needed jobs to a community that was being forced to destroy their magnificent wilderness in order to survive. In the last ten years we have turned back time, and restored a huge piece of land to a healthy vibrant ecosystem, full of elephants, lions, and 50 other species of large mammal. At the same time, the community has received 18 new classrooms for their children, and the employees and their families have received full health care benefits in a community with incredibly high HIV incidence. Wildlife Works also founded an organic greenhouse to promote healthier farming practices, to provide local farmers with cash generating citrus trees and free agroforestry trees to use for building and fuel wood. Wildlife Works Carbon will provide the financial additionality to ensure long term sustainability of Wildlife Works efforts in Kenya and beyond.

What seems to be missing here is a clear description of the distribution mechanism to a local contracting party (village council, group ranch, or other organization) the revenue stream the local party can expect over the life of the project. And how was free, prior and informed consent obtained?

Assessing protected areas in Africa

From the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre,

This EXPERIMENTAL information system is part of a first attempt at a large scale assessment of protected areas using objective continent-wide data sets and methodologies as opposed to case studies on individual parks or global assessments (e.g. Chape et 2005 et al.). The website contain information on 741 protected areas, across 50 countries, and includes information on 280 mammals, 381 bird species and 930 amphibian species, and a wide range of climatic, environmental and socioeconomic information.

The site is here.