Managing Risks to Conservation Investments Through Climate Adaptation

The Wildlife Conservation Society partnered with the Climate Resilience Fund to offer this guidance for investors funding conservation projects - such as private foundations, public agencies and local governments - on how to consider climate change risks inherent in their investments. Climate change is causing dramatic and unpredictable effects on ecosystems and natural resources - creating uncertainties for conservation funding decision making and the future outcome of investments. This guidance for conservation investors supports intentionality in anticipating and assessing climate change risks, which in turn safeguards these investments to advance conservation goals. This holistic approach with climate adaptive decision making is deemed “climate-smart conservation.” 

Some examples of climate risks on conservation investments include projects that are focused on forest habitat that is increasingly at risk to more destructive wildfires. Coastal habitats may be inundated by sea level rise, or smaller reserves will no longer offer the amount of viable habitat or suitable habitat in the future due to climate change. However, many traditional conservation strategies will continue to support ecosystem and species adaptation - such as efforts to connect existing reserves, or reduce habitat degradation.

This resource was featured in the December 14, 2017, ASAP Newsletter.

ASAP wrote: "If the UN report on biodiversity has you wondering what to do next, here’s a serendipitous response: The Climate Resilience Fund and Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund released a new report that provides guidance for reducing investment risk in conservation. Co-authored by ASAP Board Member John Nordgren, Managing Risks to Conservation Investments Through Climate Adaptation explains how funders can prepare and intentionally consider climate change in their work, and thus work to ensure that conservation investments are more durable."

The report presents the concept of the “continuum of intentionality” of grantmakers, as a way to evaluate their capacity to incorporate climate change in their investments. There are three levels of intentionality: Empower, Require, and Equip:

Empower: Consider if grantmaking goals take climate into consideration, and ask grantees how their proposed projects do so

Require: Adaptation is part of the criteria and eligibility requirements for funding

Equip: Invest in grantees’ capacity to evaluate and incorporate climate risks through training or technical assistance

The WCS Climate Adaptation Fund program has funded over $16 million on more than 90 climate-smart conservation projects as of 2018, and this report draws from the lessons learned in these investments. The fund was created specifically to help wildlife and ecosystems adapt to the impacts of climate change, and the projects include a design that can maximize conservation impact by incorporating climate adaptive strategies. The report details “the principles of being intentional and embracing change in the service of enabling climate-smart conservation” using examples from the Climate Adaptation Fund.

WCS Grantmaking Criteria for Embracing Change includes evaluating projects which are:

  • designed for long-term conservation impact with climate change, and
  • doing something different or strategic to help wildlife and ecosystems adapt. 


Publication Date: April 25, 2019

Related Resources:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Best practice
  • Case study

Go To Resource