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Innovative Finance

Innovative Finance within Wilderness Foundation Africa is aimed at developing and implementing new and innovative financial solutions for sustainable landscapes in South Africa, with particular focus on protected and conserved areas.

South Africa’s official biodiversity finance gap sits at approximately 64%, indicating that a substantial portion of additional finance is required to effectively conserve biodiversity. Landscape conservation efforts across the country and the continent are hindered due to a lack of sustainable finance that is cater-made for protected and conserved areas. The Innovative Finance Team focuses on a variety of financial solutions that are cross-disciplinary and undertaken in collaboration with partners, stakeholders and sectoral experts to systematically address this gap and ensure that enduring benefits for people and planet are sustained through adequate financing and resourcing.

Four focal areas embraced: Fiscal Solutions, Offset Initiatives, Policy Structuring and Investment Vehicles in partnership with WWF South Africa. Each focal area contains a number of project initiatives that investigate and implement specific solutions. The Innovative Finance Team is led by niche expert, Candice Stevens, and supported by specialist skill sets in tax extension, environmental economics and financial engineering.

New and exciting platforms for conservation finance in South Africa are set to be launched so watch this space for updates and how to get involved.

The Sustainable Landscape Finance Coalition

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The global financial underspend on environmental efforts is well recognised, and the southern African region is no exception. Developing and implementing innovative green financial solutions is crucial for enabling sustainable landscapes and providing lasting benefits for nature, people and the economy.

What is the issue?

South Africa has numerous plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world, with biodiversity-abundant areas including the Cape Floral Kingdom, Succulent Karoo and Grasslands. These diverse natural assets form a critical part of South Africa’s ecological infrastructure – the natural foundations for water and food security, ecosystem health and economic well-being.

Healthy, functioning ‘‘sustainable landscapes’’ underpin human health and well-being, as well as sustainable and resilient economies. They can also contribute significantly to the Sustainable Development Goals: raising employment, safeguarding access to clean water, ensuring environmental sustainability and resilience to future environmental shocks, and increasing the amount of land and oceans under protection.

It is more cost-effective to maintain intact ecological infrastructure than it is to restore it. But many conservation-critical landscapes are facing considerable threats. Essential environmental issues require more attention and South Africa is confronted with a substantial shortfall in spending to address these serious challenges. To continue providing such benefits will require a coordinated shift in how priority landscapes are managed and how finance is raised for these efforts.

What are we doing?

Wilderness Foundation Africa (WFA) and WWF South Africa (WWF SA) formed the Sustainable Landscape Finance Coalition to drive the development of finance solutions for effective and enduring landscape conservation and environmental work across South Africa.

How are we doing this?

Through a 16-member council, strategic partners and the Innovation Hub, the coalition brings together a national knowledge base of thought leaders, experts and stakeholders in the finance sector. The coalition relies on strategic partners to ensure effective implementation in the coalition’s incubators and leans on a group of voluntary specialist contributors who provide expertise to support the work of the coalition.

We work to develop a cohesive conservation finance network, redirect and create new financial flows, and capacitate higher impact and greater delivery of sustainable finance solutions for priority landscapes. We co-develop new finance strategies for key conservation areas, as well as add considerable momentum to initiatives already underway.

Additionally, a few finance solution incubators have been initiated to identify and implement pilot initiatives. Some examples include a pilot project on biodiversity-related tax deductions and enabling property rebates for protected areas.

Who do we work with?

WFA and WWF SA have been driving the coalition and the network of members now includes those in the agriculture, banking, investment, and legal sectors, as well as academia and government.

How did we start?

WFA and WWF SA had joint objectives to investigate ways to build innovative financing models to support landscape conservation. Given the sustainable finance work done individually by WFA and WWF SA, both parties shared similar ideas and beliefs that there was a need for a new regional platform to coordinate landscape finance approaches in South Africa.

In 2019, they joined hands to launch the Sustainable Landscape Finance Coalition to address the urgent needs of attracting finance into South Africa and the region’s most crucial conservation-worthy landscapes.

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What are the big wins?

1. The coalition has created six finance solution incubators. In reviewing some of these incubators, a high-level cost benefit analysis was conducted, and the initial findings show that investments of all the incubators combined would be between R243 million and R329 million in a conservative scenario, and between R1.4 billion and R1.9 billion in the least restrictive scenario.

2. One of the innovative pilot projects – the Biodiversity Management Agreement Tax Investigation Incubator – has proven successful and shows the ability of an incubator to unlock feasible solutions for new financial innovations to be piloted.