Article | 28 Fév, 2023

IUCN Alcoa Foundation collaboration to explore the benefits of restoration and biodiversity offsetting

A conversation with Rosa Garcia Piñero, President of Alcoa Foundation, to understand the goals of the partnership

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Rosa Maria Piñeros - President of Alcoa Foundation

Photo: Alcoa Foundation archive

Gland, Switzerland – March 2023 - The new Global Biodiversity Framework, launched in February 2023, has targeted restoring at least 30% of degraded areas or having them under restoration. The urgency to minimize the impacts of development infrastructure has never been greater, and successfully restoring degraded areas will require significant effort and a thorough understanding of the ecological and social drivers of restoration.

In a recent conversation with Rosa Garcia Piñero, President of Alcoa Foundation, we gained insights into the Foundation’s collaboration with IUCN, which focuses on assessing the impact of actions taken to mitigate environmental effects and finding ways to mobilise societal, technological, and financial resources for better results.

This new partnership between Alcoa Foundation and IUCN is a crucial step towards developing practical approaches for biodiversity offsets and has the potential to promote responsible practices in the mining sector and inspire confidence in the benefits of restoration projects for the hosting communities and the environment.

Read the full interview.

1. According to the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, it is imperative to minimise the impacts of development infrastructures. Target 2 of the recently announced Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) aims for at least 30% of the earth’s degraded ecosystems to be under effective restoration, and it will require massive effort to be successful. The mining industry has an unprecedented opportunity to excel in and mobilise significant societal, technological, and financial resources to implement restoration.

Why is ecosystem restoration an important investment area for Alcoa Foundation?

First, thank you for taking the time to interview me today. Alcoa Foundation is pleased to partner with IUCN on this important work.

Now, turning to your question, The Alcoa Foundation has focused its strategy on biodiversity conservation over the last several years because it is critical for a healthy environment and ecosystem services allow many vulnerable communities to thrive and preserve their traditional way of life. In other communities, priority ecosystem services might be related to leisure, sports, or entertainment, but in all cases, they contribute to a better quality of life.

While our project won’t involve the direct implementation of restoration work, it will provide needed research on the effectiveness of restoration projects and best practices that will inform future projects. It will also support progress towards Target 2 of the GBF, which will require a good understanding, both ecologically and socially, of what drives successful restoration. Lastly, it aligns well with our mission to address local needs in a sustainable manner.

 

2. We are facing a climate emergency and many environmental threats. What are the main challenges for foundations in developing meaningful projects to combat these threats?

There are many organizations engaged in important work in the environment space. As a funder, we look for projects that will provide a meaningful impact that can be sustained after the project is completed. Understanding the impact of actions to mitigate environmental threats and monitoring them, such as restoration, is our major challenge.

We need to understand if projects to reverse or prevent climate and environmental threats are working and how they impact communities more systemically (i.e., social impacts). That is why this project with IUCN is so meaningful. Another essential element of the project is engaging multiple research organizations — projects which leverage combined talents and collaborate to address environmental challenges, while generating and disseminating new knowledge across different jurisdictions.

 

3. The Alcoa Foundation's mission is to support social and environmental projects in the areas where Alcoa operates, to promote more sustainable practices and benefits for the communities. Can you highlight some initiatives and the main achievements

Alcoa Foundation has awarded over $18.57 million in environmental grants to 65 partners since 2017. From monitoring air quality, funding critical climate change related research, and restoring habitats for endangered species, the projects are varied because we align our giving with community needs. One example is our decade’s long partnership with Greening Australia. Our joint One Million Trees project restored degraded habitats and captured thousands of tons of CO2 by planting trees in Western Australia and Victoria. With Alcoa’s help, the non-profit organization has planted over 1 million trees, shrubs, and understory plants.

For the Three Rivers, One Estuary Project, we were joined by the Nature Conservancy and Peel-Harvey Catchment Council to engage more than 3,000 individuals and 100 community groups in activities to improve the health and biodiversity of key waterways in the Peel region of Western Australia.

In Brazil, Alcoa Foundation helped launched efforts to protect over 12,000 acres of Amazon River Forest around the Jara Lake from the impacts of a growing population in the town of Juruti. The lake provides drinking water to more than 50,000 people. Our grant financed a technical study, development plan, and a management plan for a recreation area with a visitors’ center and other educational offerings.

A newer initiative is our partnership with Earth Day Canada, which is helping reduce organic waste in landfills. With our support, Earth Day Canada is working with organizations in Alcoa communities to divert roughly 700 tons of organic waste from landfill.

 

Jará Environmental Protection Area (APA Jará), Pará, BrazilPhoto: Alcoa Foundation archive
Jará Environmental Protected Area (APA Jará), Pará, Brazil. Photo: Alcoa Foundation Archive

 

4. The mining sector is pivotal in addressing the global threats of climate change and biodiversity loss. Even a complete shift to renewable energies would require vast amounts of raw materials. This demand will see many new mines open, and others will close. How is the Alcoa Foundation helping communities impacted by this transition?

Alcoa Foundation will continue to support projects that combat climate change and biodiversity loss in communities where Alcoa operates. The Foundation’s other key investment area is education & workforce development, focused on equipping communities with the skills needed for future work and transition to economies of the future.

In collaboration with Alcoa’s Transformation team, Alcoa Foundation also invests in communities where Alcoa has curtailed or closed sites. One example is in Suriname. Alcoa Foundation has invested over US $1.3 million since 2017 in projects focused on skills development, environmental and cultural education.  We also supported vaccine deployment and other local relief efforts in Suriname during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

5. Why is this new partnership with IUCN so important? Can this contribute to more responsible practices in the sector and more confidence in restoration projects? 

Yes, absolutely. The focus of the collaboration is to generate a much-needed evaluation of monitoring data for restoration outcomes, assess successful approaches that could be applied in the context of biodiversity offsets, and analyse how restoration programs can positively impact ecosystems and minimize risk. It will also aim to provide benefits for local communities. This builds on other tools and standards developed by IUCN, such as the guidance for using the IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based SolutionsTM . The Standard aims to equip users with a framework for designing and verifying nature-based solutions, such as watershed protection, in solving societal challenges.

As mentioned, the work will also contribute to the efforts to meet Goal A of the Global Biodiversity Framework, which is to maintain, enhance or restore the integrity, connectivity, and resilience of all ecosystems.

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About IUCN

IUCN is a membership Union composed of both government and civil society organizations. It harnesses the experience, resources and reach of its more than 1,400 Member organizations and the input of more than 18,000 experts. IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. For more information, visit www.iucn.org.

About Alcoa Foundation

Alcoa Foundation invests where Alcoa has a presence, partnering with communities to address local needs in a sustainable manner. With its nonprofit partners, Alcoa Foundation contributes to programs that protect and preserve the environment and promote equitable access to education and skills-building opportunities. For more information, visit www.alcoa.com/foundation