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Convening at Stanford solidifies progress in countries to link nature with development decisions

The People, Planet, Prosperity Forum at Stanford reconnected teams that are using nature-based approaches to achieve country development, climate, and biodiversity goals.
3p Forum
The 3Ps project is a coordinated effort to mainstream natural capital approaches in development and lending practices. Photo credit: Mark Costa/Cyperus Media. 

On June 3-4, the Natural Capital Project (NatCap), the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank convened participants from the People, Planet, Prosperity (3Ps) project for a second global forum, following the first one held last April. The event brought together leaders from across government sectors in 10 pilot countries, as well as those sharing lessons from similar work in other countries, to Stanford University, where NatCap is based. The natural capital approaches used in these pilots help determine where and how nature is benefiting people, or could benefit people if restored.

“The countries are implementing diverse natural capital approaches – quantifying and incorporating nature’s benefits to people into their development – and we are scaling this through the multilateral development banks,” said Mary Ruckelshaus, executive director of the Natural Capital Project. “It is incredible how many innovative policy and finance decisions can emerge from a foundational natural capital assessment.” 

Linking ecosystem science with policy or finance windows

Mary Ruckelhaus
Mary Ruckelshaus welcoming representatives from the 3Ps pilot projects to Stanford. Photo credit: Mark Costa/Cyperus Media. 

At the forum, country representatives shared progress on the pilot projects they’re leading with their NatCap and multilateral development bank (MDB) colleagues. These range from training government staff in the Philippines to conduct natural capital assessments as part of their integrated watershed management planning process, to setting up financial compensation mechanisms in Colombia for the stewardship of natural resources and biodiversity. 

Information about a country’s natural capital is being developed with specific outcomes in mind, feeding into decisions like prioritizing investments in nature; establishing a fair value for payments to communities who are preserving ecosystem services; and providing evidence of progress toward conservation targets in order to open up financing options. Two key elements of the 3Ps project are linking the scientific work with specific policy windows or investment opportunities, and developing long-term capacity for durable technical, policy, and finance outcomes. 

Pilot country teams discussing details and next steps for completing their work together.
Pilot country teams discussing details and next steps for completing their work together. Photo credit: Talia Trepte. 

“The science is there, after decades of work on the biophysical and economics foundation of our approaches. Now where we need work is figuring out which measures of nature’s value are most useful: what metrics are going to drive a specific policy forward, or drive the finance forward. But we really need to be more intentional about it,” said Ruckelshaus. “For example, there is a lot of interest in measuring benefits in terms of livelihoods, and how they are distributed across Indigenous, rural, and urban communities.” 

The forum included dedicated time for the country teams to meet and discuss their pilot projects, co-led by experts from governments, MDBs, and NatCap, which allowed them to reach agreements and solidify their plans across the diverse ministries and interests involved. They also met in groups focused on cross-cutting themes relevant across the pilot projects, such as key performance indicators (KPIs), results-based financing, natural capital accounting, and repurposing subsidy reforms. 

Participants in the 3Ps Forum spent time in groups focused on different finance and policy mechanisms, in addition to their pilot projects.
Participants in the 3Ps Forum spent time in groups focused on different finance and policy mechanisms, in addition to their pilot projects. Photo credit: Mark Costa/Cyperus Media. 

Operationalizing nature’s value in multilateral development banks 

Gregory Watson, principal specialist, biodiversity and natural capital, at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), pointed to IDB’s new institutional strategy, which includes natural capital, biodiversity, and climate change as a core focus area. Just after the 3Ps Forum, on June 12, IDB also released its 2024-2025 Natural Capital and Biodiversity Mainstreaming Action Plan, which includes the work on these pilots as part of its key efforts. 

“We are looking forward to presenting the work of these pilot projects at COP16 in Colombia, because it is really cutting edge,” said Watson at the event.

Greg Watson from the Inter-American Development Bank and others discussing pilot projects and ways of integrating nature into development.
Gregory Watson from the Inter-American Development Bank and others discussing pilot projects and ways of integrating nature into development. Photo credit: Mark Costa/Cyperus Media. 

Qingfeng Zhang, senior director of the Agriculture, Food, Nature and Rural Development Sector at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), emphasized the need for a multilateral development bank taskforce on valuing natural capital to address the climate-food-nature nexus, pointing out that the Asia-Pacific region contains some of the richest biodiversity in the world, yet suffers greatly from climate change and is home to more than 400 million hungry people. 

He also noted the establishment of their Natural Capital Lab, as well as the Natural Capital Fund announced in November 2023 at the 3Ps Asia-Pacific Regional Forum, supported initially by the Global Environment Facility. He added that last month, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program also agreed to provide financing for this fund. “ADB is ready to work with all MDBs and partners to scale up financing in natural capital investment,” concluded Zhang.  

Qingfeng Zhang of the Asian Development Bank engaging in targeted small group conversations at the 3Ps Forum.
Qingfeng Zhang of the Asian Development Bank engaging in targeted small group conversations at the 3Ps Forum. Photo credit: Mark Costa/Cyperus Media. 

Representatives from the World Bank also attended the forum, sharing lessons from projects conducted as part of the Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Landscape Assessment (BELA) initiative, which just released case studies on eight projects NatCap supported. 

Many attendees from the forum remained at Stanford for the rest of the week to participate in the 2024 Natural Capital Symposium, the first one held since 2019, to expand their network and share these pilot projects more broadly. 

Ruckelshaus said, of the engagement work these teams are doing, “It is a muscle. You have to build trust, and relationships, so you can understand what others’ decisions are based on, and what they know. Then we can really make progress together.” 

The People, Planet, Prosperity project is a collaboration between the Stanford University-based Natural Capital Project, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank. It is funded by the Global Environment Facility, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Global Partnership for Sustainable and Resilient Landscapes (PROGREEN), a World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund.

The Natural Capital Project is a global partnership based out of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability and its Woods Institute for the Environment, as well as the Stanford School of Humanities & Sciences.  

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