Protected Areas and Resilient Landscapes – Project Finance for Permanence in Colombia, Perú and Bhutan.

Medellin, Colombia
Area characterisation: 

Healthy, well-managed protected areas are critical to the 2015 Paris Agreement’s ambitions of creating a low-carbon global economy and a climate-resilient world. The role of forests and other natural systems in sequestering carbon has been well-documented. Similarly, protected areas provide a suite of ecosystem services that help vulnerable communities during extreme weather events. These include protection from soil erosion due to heavy rainfall, coastal storm surge and wave attenuation, and flooding. National governments would benefit from acknowledging the benefits that nature provides by placing protected and other conserved areas at the center of their commitments to addressing climate-related challenges.


Managing socio-ecological landscapes as natural carbon sinks and resources for adaptation is increasingly recognized as a necessary, efficient and relatively cost-effective strategy. Protected areas store 15 % of terrestrial carbon and supply ecosystem services for disaster reduction, water supply, food and public health, all of which enable community-based adaptation. Many natural and managed ecosystems can help reduce climate change impacts. But protected areas have advantages over other approaches to natural ecosystem management in terms of legal and governance clarity, capacity and effectiveness. In many cases protection is the only way of keeping carbon locked in and ecosystem services running smoothly. Without the investment made in protected areas systems worldwide, the situation would be even worse. Increasing investment through a partnership of governments, communities, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations and the private sector would ensure greater protection of these essential services. But these co-benefits for climate, biodiversity and society are often missed or ignored. As we enter an unprecedented scale of negotiations about climate and biodiversity it is important that these messages reach policy makers loud and clear and are translated into effective policies and funding mechanisms. 


To increase ambition and highlight the role of protected areas while inspiring others to action, WWF is developing a list of recommendations for Parties as they work to revise their NDCs for 2020 or in 5-year cycles as agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

1. Acknowledge the role that protected and other conserved areas can play in achieving climate change adaptation and mitigation goals and include them in NDCs and related climate change policies.

2. Increase coverage of protected and conserved areas and set specific, measurable and time-bound targets.

3. Clearly articulate the role of protected and conserved areas in helping people adapt to climate change and link specific climate hazards and vulnerable populations with the appropriate ecosystem services needed for adaptation.

4. Integrate the carbon sequestration benefits of protected and other conserved areas into climate change mitigation targets.

5. Commit to managing protected and other conserved areas for current and anticipated climate risks to ecosystems and biodiversity while calling attention to the need for increased technical and financial support to improve protected area management in the face of rapid change.

Potential impacts/benefits: 

a. Enhancing and maintaining natural carbon stocks.

b. Reduction in carbon emissions through reduced deforestation, reduced degradation, natural re-growth and reforestation.

c. Increasing climate resilience, related to the ecosystem services provided in landscapes, that will be maintained through adaptive land use management strategies and resilience building actions that maintain, for example, key water regulation services.

d. Social impact to local communities that participate in local adaptation strategies, each of which will explicitly account for risks and impacts of climate change.

e. Net economic impact – This is yet to be fully calculated.

f. Minimising species extinction and ecological losses and fostering an increase of biodiversity.

NbS benefits 
  • Developing climate change adaptation; improving risk management and resilience
  • Flood peak reduction
  • Reducing temperature at meso or micro scale
  • Developing climate change mitigation
  • Carbon sequestration and storage
  • Restoring ecosystems and their functions
  • Improve connectivity and functionality of green and blue infrastructures
  • Increase achievements of biodiversity targets
  • Increase Biodiversity
  • Increased cultural richness and biodiversity
  • Creation of green jobs relating to construction & maintenance of NBS
  • Improve air quality
  • Improve water quality
  • Increase awareness of NBS solution & their effectiveness and co benefits
  • Increase communities’ sense of ownership
  • Increase population & infrastructures protected by NBS
  • Increase stakeholder awareness & knowledge about NBS
  • Increase willingness to invest in NBS
  • Provision of health benefits
  • Social learning about location & importance of NBS
Transferability of the result: 

The Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) model has been successfully implemented in other countries, such as Brazil (ARPA for Life), Costa Rica (Costa Rica Forever), Bhutan (Bhutan for Life), Peru (Peru’s Natural Legacy), and Canada (Great Bear). HECO is part of WWF’s Earth for Life initiative, which aims to expand the PFP model across the globe.


A central goal of the initiative is to ensure the sustainable long-term financing of protected areas. The PFP approach uses an innovative financial strategy based on a public-private partnership where resources from international cooperation, private sector, civil society, philanthropy are combined to close the assessed funding gap over a defined period of time, while the government is supported to find and develop new sources of sustainable funding for PAs (such as payment for environmental services, compensation and the application of carbon neutrality), so that the long-term management of the protected areas system is fully self-sustaining by the end of the programme . An example of this new financing sources has been the Government's decision to provide Heritage Colombia with the 5% of the recently created carbon tax for the implementation of this programme.

Protected areas and other conserved areas, such as indigenous and community conserved lands and sacred natural areas, have played a critical role in biodiversity conservation for the past century. Beyond providing a haven for species, these areas also provide vital ecosystem services that sustain livelihoods, connect landscapes, capture and store carbon, and inspire people to value the natural world. Governments, protected area managers and conservation groups alike often neglect the increasing risk that climate change poses to protected areas and the ecosystem services they provide. Most planners and managers of the world’s protected areas do not consider climate risks, instead of relying on traditional approaches to conservation that are rapidly becoming obsolete with increased warming and climate variability. WWF believes that a viable future for people and nature mandates that conservation efforts and strategies– including the management of protected and other conserved areas–are continuously updated to account for unavoidable climate change risks to biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services. National governments have a vested interest in doing so to ensure that protected areas continue to deliver on commitments to their citizens and to the UNFCCC, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This contribution will focus on guiding Parties to centrally incorporate these ideas into revised NDCs for 2020. 


WWF implementing partners include WWF Bhutan WWF Peru, WWF Colombia and WWF United States Initiative lead contact: Ximena Barrera; (need to contact WWF perú, WWF bhutan and WWF US).

Sustainable Development Goals 
  • 1. No Poverty
  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action
  • 15. Life On Land
  • 17. Partnerships for the Goals
Key Performance Indicators: