Belize’s ethereal Marine Protected Areas receive investment of US$ 1.2 million, raised in latest IUCN BNCFF project for Nature-based Solutions
Investment from a new "blended" finance facility will allow Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA), to use the incoming funds to implement a number of sustainable, revenue-generating initiatives while enhancing the protection of 132,000 hectares of spectacular coral reef ecosystems. The investment will have a positive impact on the local economy, including coastal fishing communities. The facility will also help the country unlock more sustainable financing to strengthen management of the country's beautiful Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
MPAs eventually self-sustaining, self-financing
Through this BNCFF (Blue Natural Capital Financing Facility) initiative, TASA will be able to implement smart business models aligned with conservation objectives, and so generate its own, self-sustaining revenues. Altogether, the new benefits combine to enable TASA to effectively protect the marine reserve. The project will enhance TASA’s financial sustainability, improve the MPA visitor experience, generate blue carbon credits and contribute to the effective long-term management of the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve.
The investment will also be used to improve the management of fisheries, coral reefs, mangrove and sea grass habitats and is , expected to have a direct impact on the local economy, benefitting small-scale fishers (re increased fishery productivity), promoting responsible tourism, and creating new jobs in the MPA.
The investment will contribute directly to the United-Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) 1, 13, 14 and 17 (No poverty, Climate action, Life below water and Partnerships). Performance will be monitored using best practice impact standards.
Minna Epps, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme Director, says, “IUCN is very excited to enter jointly with its partners into a blended finance set-up for Nature-based Solutions for MPAs in Belize. The world needs to see how such projects work on the ground and make a real difference, for people and nature.”
Blended finance is public and private capital working together for a sustainable investment model
This is a "blended" impact investment, which combines public and private capital, alongside catalytic grant funding. It is a result of an innovative collaboration between public sector, private sector, NGOs and communities working towards making MPAs financially sustainable and more independent from traditional funding (grants, public money).
The facility has been structured by and funded by Mirova (through the Althelia Sustainable Ocean Fund) in partnership with IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) through its Blue Natural Capital Finance Facility and with the support of Blue Finance, a specialized impact investment project developer for MPAs. TASA and Blue Finance are working together to design and implement new business models around innovative nature-based tourism solutions and to design a blue carbon project based on mangrove conservation.
Investments which return, but also enable long-term conservation, economic and technical support
The Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve uses a collaborative management structure between the Ministry of Blue Economy of Belize and TASA, a non-government entity, through a public–private partnership agreement.
This agreement redistributes the financial burden and attracts long-term economic and technical support needed for effective management.
Similar experiences with terrestrial nature conservation in the world, shows that this kind of agreement can improve service and financial sustainability through professional management and marketing, reducing the need for public subsidies, and mobilise capital for investment in protected areas’ infrastructure and biodiversity.
Through the development of this finance solution, the partners will aid in attracting new investment into this critical but underfunded area of protecting natural capital and reducing poverty in Belize. By demonstrating proof-of-concept at scale, the solution builds confidence in natural capital investment within the region.
“Bringing together the financial world and the conservation world requires innovative and collaborative thinking. You need to ensure high quality for project design and execution and at the same time maintain a sustainable conservation strategy (rooted in science). Working with experienced partners such as Mirova, IUCN and TASA allowed us to find this balance and to successfully complete the collaborative management and blended finance solution for Belize,” Nicolas Pascal, CEO, Blue finance.
The need for protection
Today, more than 60% of coral reefs worldwide are under immediate and direct threat (WRI, 2018).
At the same time, some 500 million people depend directly on these ecosystems for food and income, making these populations particularly vulnerable to reef-loss and an ensuing circle of poverty. Well managed and financed MPAs are the cornerstones of international efforts to “replenish biodiversity and nourish the growing human population” (IUCN, 2018). However, 70% of the MPAs worldwide struggle to meet minimum management standards, due to piecemeal insufficient, and short-term funding for MPAs which is largely provided by public and development finance.
The facility begins addressing this large gap in conservation finance for MPAs by supporting Belize’s MPAs in their sustainability endeavors.
See this project in more detail on the Blue Natural Capital Financing Facility website.