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New global fund invests in nature to shore up climate change fight

KUALA LUMPUR — A new international fund backed by wealthy nations aims to invest at least $500 million in protecting nature in developing countries and giving indigenous people a bigger role in conserving their environment and tackling climate change.

The Climate Investment Funds (CIF), one of the world’s largest multilateral climate financing instruments, launched its “Nature, People, and Climate” (NPC) program on Wednesday at a major United Nations (UN) environment conference in Stockholm.

Backed so far by Italy and Sweden, and with a target of raising $500 million by November, the NPC will provide finance and expertise to initiatives that conserve wildlife, plants and forests, promote sustainable agriculture and food supplies, and enable people to cope with rising seas and extreme weather.

“Nature-based solutions help reduce emissions, support communities adapting to a changing climate and protect biodiversity,” Matilda Ernkrans, Sweden’s international development minister, said in a statement.

Improving conservation and management of natural areas, such as parks, oceans, forests and wildernesses, is seen as crucial to safeguarding the ecosystems on which humans depend and to limiting global warming to internationally agreed targets.

But forests are still being cut down — often to produce commodities such as palm oil, soy and beef — destroying biodiversity and threatening climate goals, as trees absorb about a third of planet-warming emissions produced worldwide.

The new NPC program expects to invest in efforts to expand approaches like carbon storage, mangrove restoration,

 and climate resilience in small island developing states, sub-Saharan Africa and forested countries around the globe

They are among the places hit hardest by the impacts of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and rising food and energy prices fueled by the Ukraine war, said Paul Hartman, a senior environmental specialist at the CIF.

“Many of these shocks that you see globally to food systems have an impact on countries’ economies but particularly on (the) economies of the farmers and livelihoods of people,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Global annual spending to protect and restore nature on land needs to triple this decade to about $350 billion by 2030, a UN report said last year.

Boosting finance for developing nations to better protect their nature-rich ecosystems is a longstanding challenge.

Earlier this year, international green groups called on the world’s richest nations to provide at least $60 billion a year to protect and restore biodiversity in developing countries.

The NPC platform aims to invest in nature projects that are part of larger, national investment plans, also involving multilateral development banks, with the aim of raising more finance from the private sector and other sources, said Hartman.

In addition, the NPC aims to partner with indigenous groups and communities living in and around protected areas, who experts say play a vital role in conservation.

“This is more than just about working with them — it’s about putting them in positions of being the decision-makers,” Mr. Hartman said.

“It’s not just about involving them, it’s about them being at the table and making decisions and using their knowledge.” — Michael Taylor/Thomson Reuters Foundation

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