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How Fauna & Flora International works on local solutions to the global environmental crisis

Launching our new monthly series with members of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, Mark Rose, CEO of Fauna & Flora International, discusses the work being done around the world.

Fauna & Flora International CEO Mark Rose. Picture: Juan Pablo Moreiras
Fauna & Flora International CEO Mark Rose. Picture: Juan Pablo Moreiras

Cambridge is an international hub for conservation and at Fauna & Flora International (FFI) we are proud to play our part in the incredible work being done to protect and restore nature.

FFI is one among many conservation NGOs that call Cambridge home – part of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and nine leading organisations.

However, we’re a rare breed in that we have few conservation projects in the UK itself and hundreds of international ones, giving us deep insight into the many environmental challenges bearing down on us all.

And with the spotlight on the interlinked global biodiversity and climate crisis like never before – and with the growing recognition from policy-makers of the urgent action needed to address the crisis – our broad experience provides insight not just on the challenges we are facing but, more importantly, on the solutions we must strive for.

With so few good news stories concerning nature and the environment, it can be easy to become dispirited and to believe that nothing works. But in our experience this is far from the truth. This is not to downplay the seriousness of the situation. Yes, we are facing an environmental crisis with the potential to unravel ecosystems, dangerously shift the climate and threaten societies. But all is not lost. We know, because FFI staff and partners around the world have brought ecosystems and species back from the brink to a position of health.

So what have we found that works? The key word is “partners.” Our model is to work alongside and empower local NGOs and local communities in countries around the world who best understand contexts – environmental, social and political – that are often hyperlocal, nuanced and sensitive. From Liberia to Vietnam, Cambodia to Kyrgyzstan, our engagement with local partners and communities doing the day-in-day out work of protecting and restoring nature is our lifeblood as an organisation.

Siamese crocling. Picture: Jeremy Holden/Fauna & Flora International
Siamese crocling. Picture: Jeremy Holden/Fauna & Flora International

The successes are too numerous to name, but include protecting critically endangered Siamese crocodiles, planting mangrove forests to act as flood defences and store carbon, discovering new primates and protecting the grasslands of Central Asia – another critically important ecosystem for carbon storage.

Seeing the huge potential to bring our partners together as a unique community, last autumn we tapped our international network in a way we haven’t done before, when we brought together more than 140 of our partners in an unprecedented call to the governments of the United Nations for action on the climate and biodiversity crisis.

From bee keepers in Romania to ecologists in Myanmar and Indigenous-run organisations in Central America, the call was unanimous: world governments must come together to fundamentally change economic incentives and put nature at the centre of decision making – as well as giving the natural world a big financial shot in the arm.

A juvenile Siamese crocodile. Credit: Bianca Roberts/FFI
A juvenile Siamese crocodile. Credit: Bianca Roberts/FFI

The letter called explicitly for an initial $500billion to be invested annually in nature conservation worldwide.

The organisations called for this initial funding to be scaled upwards by $50bn year-on-year, to support local conservationists in protecting the natural world. In addition to funding demands, FFI and the signatory organisations called for a fundamental reordering of global financial flows from businesses and government, moving finances away from activities harmful to nature and into the hands of locally-led conservation organisations who can use reprioritised funding to protect nature and help ensure collective global health.

$500bn is, on the face of it, a lot of money. But when you consider that the US alone is spending $1.9trillion on its pandemic recovery plan, is it really impossible to believe that all the world’s countries could, together, put aside just a quarter of that amount for the vital work of safeguarding nature?

We really are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle head-on the crisis we are facing. The natural world is crucial to human and economic health, but it is under immense pressure, remains drastically underfunded and is being actively undermined by perverse economic incentives that encourage destructive practices in agriculture and fisheries.

Popa langur, found in the vincinity of Mount Popa, Myanmar. Picture: Aung Ko Lin/Fauna & Flora International
Popa langur, found in the vincinity of Mount Popa, Myanmar. Picture: Aung Ko Lin/Fauna & Flora International

We see every day that those who are best placed to lead the protection and recovery of nature are local conservation organisations who see the problems first hand and have the knowledge necessary to secure real change. In our letter we set out a variety of mechanisms that governments could look at to unlock the funding that could hugely boost local conservation efforts. For example, redirecting just 0.25 per cent of global GDP from fossil fuel subsidies to conservation could bring in $200bn alone.

With the environmental crisis now recognised as such by governments around the world, it is incumbent upon policy makers to make these bold changes and work with civil society to identify environmental priorities - and then deliver the funding to the organisations that will drive forward solutions.

Addressing the deepening environmental crisis has to be the number one priority for all of us today. The biodiversity and climate crisis concerns us all, and no one is immune from its effects. I would urge everyone reading this to add their names to our call for action and to support FFI in its mission to create change. We do not lack the knowledge, the skills or people with the drive and passion to tackle this crisis.

All is not lost. Success is real. But the clock is ticking.

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