Initiative positions Bhutan as a leader in the global fight against climate change
THIMPHU, BHUTAN: The Royal Government of Bhutan, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), donors and partners from around the world today announced their commitment to create a USD $43 million fund—the first of its kind in Asia—to permanently protect Bhutan’s network of protected areas.
This funding will be combined with USD $75 million from the Bhutan government, which will be contributed over a 14-year period, to support a new program called Bhutan for Life (BFL). The program, which is supported in part by a USD $26.6 million grant from the Green Climate Fund, will ensure that there is funding forever to properly manage Bhutan’s protected areas—which constitute 51 percent of the country, the highest percentage of land designated as protected in Asia.
Proper management of the protected areas means the country’s 2-million-hectare network of forests and rivers will be protected against poaching, illegal logging and other threats. Forests will be able to absorb carbon so Bhutan can maintain its commitment to being carbon neutral forever. Bhutan’s rivers, which are part of a network of rivers that provide water for one-fifth of the world, will remain clean. The country’s natural resources will support the livelihoods of much of the country’s rural population, and help people be more resilient against the impacts of climate change. And iconic wildlife, such as Bengal tigers and Asian elephants, will be allowed to thrive in their natural habitat.
“It is in this protected areas network, and the wildlife corridors that connect them, that most of the country’s treasured natural resources can be found,” said Bhutan Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay. “However, these natural resources are at risk, as the country is changing fast. To address the increasing threats to our pristine environment, Bhutan needs a solid new conservation-friendly business plan: one that will not just protect, but will help grow the initial capital Bhutan has put into its incredible conservation efforts; and one that will allow both conservation and economic development to occur in a balanced, sustainable way, in perpetuity. That plan is in the form of BFL.”
“Our natural resources are our most important asset,” said WWF Bhutan Country Representative Dechen Dorji. “They are the foundation for our livelihoods, spiritual connectivity, happiness and our commitment to being carbon neutral. The Royal Government of Bhutan’s leadership in adopting an innovative solution that guarantees permanent protection as well as effective management of our protected areas secures Bhutan’s future and will enable Bhutan to serve as a powerful model for the world.”
Those who showed their commitment today to support BFL included representatives from the Philipp Family Foundation, the Bedari Foundation and PlowShare Group, who provided initial preparation funding alongside WWF in 2014. Also attending were representatives of the Green Climate Fund, Global Environment Facility and additional private donors. Most were in Bhutan today, at a ceremony graced by the Queen of Bhutan, Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema. Earlier today, the Royal Government of Bhutan and WWF also signed a declaration of commitment for BFL, witnessed by donors and partners of BFL.
At the heart of this government of Bhutan- and WWF-led initiative is a fund that will make annual payments, starting high and declining to zero over a projected period of 14 years. During this time, the government of Bhutan will gradually increase its funding to match the decline in donor funding. Thereafter, Bhutan will be positioned to fully fund all protected areas on its own. An independent board with representatives from the government of Bhutan, BFL donors and relevant experts will oversee the implementation of the BFL-funded activities for the next 14 years.
BFL uses an innovative financial approach called Project Finance for Permanence (PFP). The approach has been used by WWF, national governments and others in three countries. The largest PFP, ARPA for Life, resulted in a USD $215 million fund to permanently protect 150 million acres of the Brazilian Amazon.
WWF seeks to do additional PFPs around the world, using the Bhutan program and the other PFPs as models.
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit www.panda.org/news for the latest news and media resources and follow us on Twitter @WWF_media.