Chile launches a national nature fund

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Chile’s environmment minister, Maisa Rojas, speaking at the launch event on April 4 in Santiago. Photo: Fondo NaturalezaChile’s environmment minister, Maisa Rojas, speaking at the launch event on April 4 in Santiago. Photo: Fondo Naturaleza

By Caterinna Giovannini 
Chile's minister of the environment, Maisa Rojas, together with organizations such as Oceana, WWF, WCS Chile and CONAF, yesterday launched the Chile Nature Fund (Fondo Naturaleza Chile) in Santiago.
The new public-private fund will be similar to initiatives already present in 19 other countries in Latin America, raising funds to channel them to biodiversity conservation through civil society organizations.
According to statistics from Tompkins Conservation, Chile is one of the 10 countries that invests the least resources in nature and was the only country in Latin America that did not have a fund. In Chile, approximately one dollar per hectare is invested in national parks. That is far too low when compared to other countries in the region like Costa Rica (30 dollars per hectare) or Peru (7 dollars per hectare), or when you consider that most tourists are attracted to traveling to the country primarily to visit its nature areas.
"This fund aims to make a change in the way we invest and care for the environment. Instead of going from little project to little project now it will be possible to make investments with a greater vision of the State, and at a greater territorial level", explains Ricardo Bosshard, director of WWF Chile.
So far, the Chile Nature Fund has approximately US$ 45,000, contributed by the founding group and 180 million pesos (about US$ 230,000) of initial capital contributed by the Chilean government, and is awaiting possible contributions from private companies, individuals, private foundations, the Chilean government, and bilateral and multilateral funds to finance the protection of terrestrial and marine protected areas in the country.
Costa Rica's "Forever Costa Rica" fund was created in 2010 and by 2020 had carried out more than 450 projects. It is one of the best known and is precisely the example taken by Chile in 2017 when, during the Michelle Bachelet government, the environment ministry and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Chile) decided to replicate the initiative after an exploratory visit to that country.

Then, in 2018, a working group was established that, during the past four years, focused on designing this fund that was formally created in September 2021 to, a month later, be admitted as a member of the Network of Environmental Funds of Latin America and the Caribbean (RedLAC).
Why the delay?
Chile was slow to adopt a fund like this one to support its conservation initiatives, but Maisa Rojas, the new environmental minister in the recently begun leftist Gabriel Boric government, says this is not a day to look back at what went wrong. “The important thing,” said Rojas,” is that we have come to realize that (this fund) is going to be fundamental due to the level of deterioration of our nature, on which we depend to live.” Rojas says Chile’s environmental ministry role in creating the fund was to convene diverse actors of civil society – NGOs, academia and regional organizations – so that the fund would be created with ample public participation.
Marine protected areas
A marine protected areas (MPA) program will be the first priority for the Fondo Naturaleza Chile, says Barbara Saavedra, president of the provisional board of directors of the fund and director of WCS Chile. “The idea is that over time other programs will be created to address other conservation needs, such as, for example, one that is already being incubated, a watershed restoration program. The idea is to be able to develop specific programs to solve specific conservation challenges."
The summary document of the Plan for Effective Management of Marine Protected Areas states that it is designed to "guide investments for the effective implementation of MPAs, complementary and synergistic to state action, with a time horizon of 10 years" and declares as transversal values of the plan “the protection of cultural heritage; equal treatment, in its different dimensions; and respect for the rights of indigenous communities and protection of their interests."
During the event, Chile's environment minister also highlighted the signing of the Escazú agreement on March 18, which safeguards access rights, and pledged that during the first half of this year the law creating the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service will be passed, "which after eleven long years in Congress must be approved in order to complement the country's environmental constitutionality," she declared.