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Managing Risks to Conservation Investments Through Climate Adaptation: A Practical Guide for Funders

Created: 5/02/2019 - Updated: 5/02/2019


The Problem: As climate change advances and its pace quickens, traditional conservation goals and strategies are increasingly at risk of failure. The scientific consensus is clear: climate change is happening and human activities, including fossil fuel emissions and land conversion, are the reason. Because climate governs the basis for life, changes in climate will affect natural systems and species around the globe. For conservation investors—philanthropic organizations, private donors, public agencies, and local governments—this presents a challenge. Without deliberate consideration of climate change risks, conservation investments could literally go up in smoke with more severe wild fires, be drowned by rising seas, or wilt during longer and hotter droughts.

The Solution: The good news is that there is an approach to conservation investing that can safeguard investments by assessing climate risks and advancing efforts to adapt to a changing world. We offer practical guidance on how funders can advance conservation outcomes by being intentional about considering climate change in their funding strategies, and embracing rather than resisting changes that are underway or imminent. The experience of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund*, which has invested over $16 million in climate-informed conservation actions in the United States since 2011, offers a model for putting this forward-looking investment approach into practice.

A Call to Action: Conservation funders can take the lead on advancing a more adaptive, forward-looking approach to conservation by:

  • Conducting a portfolio risk assessment that examines the challenges climate change poses to investments
  • Making climate-informed investments by requiring grantees to consider climate change when designing projects
  • Building the capacity to take climate change into account
  • Communicating stories of climate-smart investments to leverage more effective conservation actions and outcomes

This new way of doing the business of conservation investing—by accounting for and reducing climate change risks—is necessary to secure more durable outcomes for wildlife and ecosystems, and the people who depend on them.

*; “We” throughout the report indicates the authors, all of whom have been involved in creating, administering, or advising the WCS Climate Adaptation Fund since its inception.


Published On

Thursday, April 25, 2019


National / Federal
Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Maintain adequate financial resources for adaptation