Carbon Credits: the Newest Tool for Funding Jaguar Conservation
April 10, 2019
April 10, 2019
How is jaguar conservation related to fighting climate change? It might not seem like the two issues are connected but thanks to a new partnership, Panthera Colombia has found a way to simultaneously help these big cats and reduce climate impacts. This win-win situation is a result of a new and exciting venture that’s opened up possibilities for funding jaguar conservation: using carbon credits to protect critical forest habitat.
Preserving and connecting habitat is perhaps the single most important way to protect jaguars. Through a private sector partnership with ISA and South Pole, Panthera Colombia is trailblazing a new finance model that uses carbon credits to fund the restoration and conservation of jaguar habitat in South America while supporting the landowners and communities that live there. In 2016, we launched Conexión Jaguar as ISA’s flagship sustainability program. The program provides economic incentives for communities to protect jaguars and their habitat while promoting sustainable practices through the use of carbon credits.
Using the Jaguar Corridor as a guide, we are selecting sites as an effort to fight climate change with carbon credits while also protecting key jaguar habitat. The creation of the Jaguar Corridor Initiative (JCI) was a keystone of the late Dr. Alan Rabinowitz’s legacy. It’s the most ambitious species conservation initiative in the world, stretching through 14 countries from Mexico to Argentina. In partnership with governments, corporations, and local communities, Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative is working to preserve the genetic integrity of the jaguar by connecting and protecting core jaguar populations in human landscapes.
How does the program work?
Carbon credits are generated by conserving or restoring forests to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) and prevent it from being released into the atmosphere, one of the direct causes of climate change. Some individuals and companies, like ISA, look to buy credits to offset their carbon footprint (the amount of carbon they produce that contributes to climate change). Here in Colombia, there’s a special tax to make sure companies do this.
For each project, ISA provides seed money for a community to develop carbon credits generated from their conservation and restoration projects with the help of South Pole. Panthera, through the use of camera traps, creates a biodiversity baseline study highlighting the presence of the jaguar, its prey and other flora and fauna, and attaches that information to the carbon credit sale. South Pole develops the carbon credit verification, markets and sells the carbon credits, and the community commits to return a certain amount of credits to the program in order to develop new projects.
The money from the carbon bond sales is then reinvested by partner organizations or the community for conservation and restoration projects. For example, in Peru, our partner organization AMPAplans to use the funds from the carbon credit sales to hire park rangers to patrol the forests and reduce illegal resource extraction. Through our work, we also hope to try to change the false perception of the jaguar as a threat to local communities and instead reinforce their value both economically and intrinsically.
What have we achieved so far with the project?
In 2017 and 2018, Conexión Jaguar worked in three areas, two in Colombia and one in Peru. In Colombia, we have found endemic and critically endangered species such as the blue-billed curassow (Crax alberti) and the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus). In our project in San Martin, Peru, we recorded on camera the northern tiger cat (Leopardus tigrinus), the northern pudu (Pudu mephistophles) and the western mountain coati (Nasuella olivacae) for the first time in the area.
In addition to supporting carbon credits, we promote environmental education workshops with local communities, regional and national environmental authorities, owners, NGOs and academics. The focus has been to teach people the importance of each of the species that have been detected on the camera traps. The best part of these workshops is observing local people recognizing the benefits of the mammals and birds that are captured by the cameras and committing themselves to their conservation.
In one example, Arelys, a local environmental leader in Colombia, has become a spokesperson for feline conservation after the success of a project in her community. Every time someone in the community encounters a feline she informs us and asks for advice and environmental education materials. This helps to raise awareness for the importance of wild cat conservation.
What’s next for Conexión Jaguar?
Last August, we launched our second call for new projects, looking to support conservation and restoration initiatives in jaguar corridors in Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia as well as puma corridors in Chile. We received over 200 applications and are currently evaluating new projects. We’re currently planning to implement one project each year in each of the five countries, with plans to expand our impact by bringing new donors on board.
Using groundbreaking new ideas we are combining our critical jaguar conservation work with efforts to preserve important habitat and reduce climate change impacts. Our goals are ambitious—by 2030, we want Conexión Jaguar to protect 400,000 hectares of jaguar habitat and prevent 9 million tons of CO2 from being released—close to the annual emissions of a city like Bogotá. It’s our hope that this innovative new project can help us fight climate change, support local communities, and of course, protect jaguar habitat.
At Conexión Jaguar, we’re always looking to join forces with new companies and initiatives. If you’re interested in more information, please contact Matt Hyde: email@example.com.