Building sustainable finance for resilient protected and conserved areas: Lessons from COVID-19 – PARKS

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Within the March 2021 Special Edition of PARKS on “COVID-19 and Protected and Conserved Areas” is a paper on sustainable finance for resilient protected and conserved areas.


There is widespread concern that funding for protected and conserved areas (PCAs) will decline substantially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic outcomes. This paper makes the case that the impacts of the global crisis do not in themselves introduce novel financial threats to PCAs; rather, they serve to magnify, intensify and exacerbate existing structural and systemic financial constraints and weaknesses. To respond appropriately, it is therefore important to understand the status of PCA finance before COVID-19, and to address the underlying barriers and constraints to PCA financial sustainability.

Based on known PCA finance challenges, and predicted effects from COVID-19, the authors present nine overarching recommendations for building a sustainable finance base for PCAs: diversify the funding base; improve spending effectiveness and efficiency; ensure domestic budgets continue to support PCAs; increase international development finance and philanthropy; strengthen revenue generation from tourism; support PCAs governed by Indigenous peoples, local communities and private actors; include local communities in PCA governance and benefits; engage the finance sector and attract private capital; and raise public support and interest in nature conservation and PCAs. Specific activities and tools are provided to support each of these recommendations, whilst respecting the current global context.

Key words: conservation finance, protected area finance, economic crisis, finance mechanisms, BIOFIN

Open access, and available at, and the Special Edition page

DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.CH.2021.PARKS-27-SIRGK.en

Tourism in protected and conserved areas amid the COVID-19 Pandemic – PARKS

Within the March 2021 Special Edition of PARKS on “COVID-19 and Protected and Conserved Areas” is a paper written by several members of the IUCN WCPA Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist group on the impacts of the pandemic.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a global impact on the tourism sector. With tourism numbers dramatically reduced, millions of jobs could be lost, and progress made in equality and sustainable economic growth could be rolled back. Widespread reports of dramatic changes to protected and conserved area visitation have negative consequences for conservation finances, tourism businesses and the livelihoods of people who supply labour, goods and services to tourists and tourism businesses. This paper aims to share experiences from around the world on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on protected area tourism; and considers how to build resilience within protected area tourism as a regenerative conservation tool.

Key words: sustainable tourism, protected area, conserved areas, parks, COVID-19 pandemic, resilience, impacts, recovery

Open access, and available at, and the Special Edition page.

DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.CH.2021.PARKS-27-SIAS.en

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COVID-19 fallout undermining nature conservation efforts – IUCN publication


Gland, Switzerland, 11 March 2021 (IUCN) –The pandemic has significantly impacted nature conservation around the globe, including job losses among protected area rangers, reduced anti-poaching patrols and environmental protection rollbacks, according to a collection of new research papers published today by IUCN in a special issue of PARKS, the journal of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.

While the global health crisis remains priority, this new research reveals just how severe a toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on conservation efforts and on communities dedicated to protecting nature. Let us not forget that only by investing in healthy nature can we provide a solid basis for our recovery from the pandemic, and avoid future public health crises,” said IUCN Director General Dr Bruno Oberle.

Conservation efforts in Africa and Asia were most severely affected, according to a synthesis of surveys on the impacts of the pandemic on protected area operations included in the collection. More than half of protected areas in Africa reported that they were forced to halt or reduce field patrols and anti-poaching operations as well as conservation education and outreach. A quarter of protected areas in Asia also reported that conservation activities had been reduced. In Latin and North America, Europe and Oceaniamost protected areas were able to maintain core operations despite closures and losses of tourism revenue.

The pandemic also affected the livelihoods of protected area rangers and their communities. A survey of rangers in more than 60 countries found that more than one in four rangers had seen their salary reduced or delayed, while 20% reported that they had lost their jobs due to COVID-19-related budget cuts. Rangers from Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Africa and Asia were more strongly affected than their peers in Europe, North America and Oceania. 

To shed light on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on environmental policy, the special issue of PARKS analyzed economic stimulus packages and other relevant government policies that were implemented or advanced between January and October 2020. It identified some positive examples of economic recovery packages explicitly benefiting Protected and Conserved Areas (PCAs) or scaling up environmental protections; for example, eight countries in the European Union have earmarked funding to expand or better protect PCAs, including for natural capital and the circular economy. Kenya, Japan, Pakistan and New Zealand have also included nature in their stimulus packages. While 17 countries have maintained or increased their support for PCAs, 22 countries have rolled back protections in at least 64 cases in favour of unsustainable development including road construction or oil and gas extraction in areas designated for conservation. 

Protected and conserved areas are an essential conservation strategy – they help ensure the long-term health of nature, people and livelihoods. It’s encouraging to see the conservation of nature take a priority in some COVID-19 recovery efforts,” said the lead author of the study on impacts of stimulus packages, Rachel Golden Kroner of Conservation International. “We cannot allow the current crisis to further jeopardize our natural environment. If we are to build a sustainable future, rollbacks of environmental protections must be avoided, and recovery measures need to be planned in a way that not only avoids negative impacts on biodiversity, but charts a more sustainable and equitable way forward.” The special issue of PARKS, which was published today, provides the most comprehensive synthesis to date of research into the links between and impacts of COVID-19 on nature conservation.

In addition to eleven peer-reviewed scientific papers, the issue also contains opinion articles by environmental leaders includingIUCN Director General Dr Bruno Oberle; former President of Colombia and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize,Juan Manuel Santos; former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson; biochemist and winner of the Nobel Prize for medicine, Sir Richard Roberts; Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema; and the CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez.

Investing in nature conservation and restoration to prevent the future emergence of zoonotic pathogens such as coronaviruses costs a small fraction of the trillions of dollars governments have been forced to spend to combat COVID-19 and stimulate an economic recovery. To do so will also safeguard jobs, human health, incomes and essential natural resources for billions of people. We cannot say we are building back better unless we do so whilst also protecting the natural world,”said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF.

Table of contents of the Special Edition

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The PARKS special issue is an initiative of the COVID-19 and Protected Areas Task Force of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. For more information, please visit the PARKS website, and the Special Edition page.

DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.CH.2021PARKS-27SI.en

Quotes from contributors

The COVID-19 pandemic has beena tragic reminder of our broken relationship with nature and the evidence we have now shows we still have a long way to go. We continue to undermine nature when science clearly shows that we need to act urgently to better protect and conserve it, both as a safety net for affected communities and as one of our strongest allies against future zoonotic outbreaks. Global leaders must act on the lessons learnt from this crisis and step up support, recovery and investments in and to protected and conserved areas, and the local communities and indigenous people that depend on and also safeguard them”, said Mariana Napolitano Ferreira, Head of Science, WWF-Brazil.

What we learnt from our 150 contributors is this: If the shock of COVID-19 is not enough to make humanity wake up to the suicidal consequences of the destructive course of much misguided development, with its onslaught on nature, then it is hard to see how further calamities—far worse than the current pandemic—can be avoided”, said Brent Mitchell, Chair of the IUCN-WCPA Specialist Group on Privately Protected Areas and Nature StewardshipCo-Editor of the special edition of PARKS.

During the coming year, governments and others will be gathering in a series of international meetings to decide how to stabilise our climate, save biodiversity, secure human health and revive the global economy. Through all these events should run this golden thread:learn the lessons of COVID-19 by protecting nature and restoring damaged ecosystems. This is the mission that all with the power to bring about change must now pursue”, said Adrian Phillips, Co-Editor of the special edition of PARKS.

Now more than ever, we understand how human, animal, and ecosystemhealth are inextricably linked. As the world seeks relief from the current COVID-19 pandemic and now develops strategies to prevent future pandemics, national parks and protected areas have an essential, protective public-health role to play. Intact nature buffers the risk of pandemic spillover from wildlife to people. It is a value that can be easily incorporated into existing protected-area management strategies, but this has yet to be done“, said Gary Tabor, President of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation and Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas’ Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group

COVID-19 and protected area tourism – A spotlight on impacts and options in Africa – EU publication

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The world was rocked in 2020 by a global pandemic arising from a new coronavirus. The virus, thought to have transferred to humans from a wildlife species, raised awareness of the links between wildlife exploitation, trade and zoonotic disease transfer.

This paper describes the impact of COVID-19 on wildlife tourism in protected areas, considering implications for the tourism sector and local communities.

The paper shares the results of new research from tourism stakeholders globally, combined with recent market intelligence on the impacts of the pandemic. It confirms the importance of protected areas for sustainable tourism as a present and future pillar of the African economy. 

Access the paper from the Publications Office of the EU here

COVID-19 and Conservation: Crisis Response Strategies that Benefit People and Nature

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by Ina Lehmann, Jean Carlo Rodríguez and Anna Spenceley 
Briefing Paper 8/2021 

Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

DOI: 10.23661/bp8.2021 

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global human health crisis that is deeply intertwined with the global biodiversity crisis. It originated when a zoonotic virus spilled over from wild animals to humans. Viruses can spread easily in disturbed ecosystems, and with increasing contact between humans and wildlife the risk of contagion grows. Conservation is crucial to reduce the risks of future pandemics, but the current pandemic also impacts on conservation in many ways.

In this Briefing Paper we suggest strategies to alleviate the pandemic’s adverse effects on conservation in the Global South. Many zoonoses originate there, and livelihoods are strongly dependent on natural resources. The paper considers the pandemic’s overarching economic implications for protected and other conserved areas, and specific ramifications for the tourism and wildlife trade sectors, which are closely related to these areas.

Get the paper here

ITB event 12 March: Tourism for Sustainable Development

Friday, 12 March 2021 11:00 – 11:55 CET

ITB Berlin NOW Convention Stage 1 

The promotion of sustainable development through tourism has not only been in focus since the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, but it is more urgent than ever due to its huge impact on the industry. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has therefore initiated a comprehensive programme which paves the way for partner countries through the COVID-19 crisis towards a more resilient and sustainable tourism landscape. The measures are designed for 16 countries that are particularly affected by the Corona crisis and represent important destinations for the German travel market. The implementation will start in spring 2021 together with strong international partner organisations as well as local cooperation partners. The holistic approach aims at making tourism emerge stronger from the crisis and contribute to sustainable development with the broadest possible impact. The activities of the BMZ, which are closely tailored to the needs of the local population, build on previous activities and the guidelines for development cooperation in the field of tourism. 

“Sustainable Ways Out of a Challenging Crisis: Impact and Tourism Recovery in Developing and Emerging Countries”

The COVID-19 crisis has presented the global tourism industry with unforeseen challenges. Many people in developing and emerging countries depend heavily on tourism as a source of income and employment. This event sheds a light on the impacts of the pandemic on tourism destinations at a local level and how this affects the industry. International cooperation plays a vital role in supporting destinations to recover from this crisis and to build back better.

Welcome: Norbert Barthle, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

COVID-19 and Tourism in Developing and Emerging Countries: The Challenges Destinations Face
-Dr. Anna Spenceley, International Tourism Expert

A Crisis Mutually Felt: The German Travel Market and Their Partners in Developing and Emerging Countries
-Volker Adams, Head of Policy/ Foreign Tourism, DRV 
-Petra Thomas, Managing Director, forum anders reisen 

Exchange with Our Partners: Current Situation Within the Destinations and International Cooperation to Build Back Better Collaboratively
-Norbert Barthle, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

ITB event link here

Report on ‘Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency’ plan 2020

This is a report of my progress during 2020 on my ‘Tourism Declares’ plan, published on 27 January 2020.

1. Reduce my footprint:

  • Continue to participate in meetings remotely by conference call wherever possible, to avoid travel. 

All meetings in 2020 were conducted remotely, rather than in person (albeit this was in part facilitated by travel restrictions and the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than by design). 

  • Encourage others to present at conferences or meetings that I have been invited, where their carbon footprint for attending will be lower than mine. 

This turned out to be unnecessary during 2020 because travel to conferences and meetings was restricted amid COVID-19, and most face-to-face conferences and meetings were cancelled, or converted into virtual meetings.  

  • When I do fly for work or leisure, I will select options that generate lower emissions, including combining multiple-destinations on my trips.

Three international and three domestic flights taken during 2020 and were made using the shortest routes permissible under COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

  • Attend conferences and meetings in person only where my presence can have a meaningful impact by communicating sustainability messages, and when remote participation is not possible.

As noted above, all meetings in 2020 were conducted remotely, rather than in person. 

2. Offset my impact:

  • Offset carbon generated by flights for work and recreation, including through reputable offsetting organisations and/or planting trees with institutions I trust such as the Wilderness Wildlife Trust and others. 

I calculate that international and domestic flights in 2020 for myself and my family generated 40 tonnes of CO2. This was offset in January 2021 through Climate Care, with the purchase of 44 tones of emissions offset. 

  • Include carbon offset allocations for flights within future project budgets, and ensure that my clients are aware of this as a direct project cost.

This plan was initiated at the start of 2020, but was paused as no project travel took place after this plan was devised, due to pandemic travel restrictions. 

  • Continue to preferentially use Ecosia as my web-browser.

This has continued. 

3. Advocate for change:

I have encouraged members of the group and its ExCo to join Tourism Declares.

  • Continue to actively contribute as a Board member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, to promote the GSTC criteria and sustainable tourism activities that integrate climate actions.

I have encouraged directors of the GSTC, and the GSTC, to join Tourism Declares. 

  • Continue to work on sustainable tourism assignments on projects that embed climate actions within them, and with clients who are addressing climate change.

Projects incorporating climate change elements included work for UNDP in Thailand, an assignment with UNEP on COVID-19 and tourism.

The “Handbook for sustainable tourism practitioners: The essential toolbox” was due to contain two chapters on climate change and sustainable tourism and offsetting. Although these were agreed with authors, COVID-19 pandemic pressures during 2020 forced their withdrawal. Unfortunately this took place too close to the publisher’s manuscript submission date to find alternative authors.  While this is a regrettable gap in the final manuscript, Tourism Declares is mentioned in two of the other chapters, and a box on Climate Change and Tourism is provided in the introduction. The book will be available from Edward Elgar in April 2021, and I hope a second edition (!) will include full climate change chapters.

Papers relating to COVID-19 and climate change were shared on a broader blog post on COVID-19 and sustainable tourism: Information resources and links throughout the year. 

  • Share this commitment on my blog and other social media sites. 

The commitment was shared on my blog with a link to the Tourism Declares site. 

  • Encourage others in my networks to join the Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency.

A number of presentations made during the year at virtual meetings included information about Tourism Declares and climate change and tourism, including:

  • Spenceley, A. Keynote: Setting the scene: Impacts of the pandemic on the tourism sector and building back greenerUNEP’s online side event of the 26th Meeting of the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy, available here, 9 November 2020
  • Spenceley, A. Keynote: The future of tourism in natural areas: Reflecting on impact. The Future of tourism in naturalareas, Community Lab – sharing and exchange. OECD Trento Centre and TSM. 23 November 2020
  • Spenceley, A. Preparation for tourism after COVID-19: Sustainable tourism and building back better, 2020 International Tourism Cooperation Policy Forum, Korea Culture and Tourism Institute, 25 November 2020


Want to declare, too?

If you work in tourism and feel similarly about the Climate Emergency, please visit Tourism Declares. The goal is to encourage and enable as many travel companies, organizations and individuals to get involved, declare a climate emergency, and to take action.

Tourism Declares supports tourism businesses, organisations and individuals in declaring a climate emergency and taking purposeful action to reduce their carbon emissions. Visit the Tourism Declares website, and find resources and guidance on how to declare.

Preview: Handbook for Sustainable Tourism Practitioners – Due April 2021

This insightful Handbook brings together the practical guidance of over 50 international practitioners in sustainable tourism. Applying strong research design principles it provides a workable and rational toolkit for investigating practical challenges while accounting for modest timeframes and resources.

Expert contributors illustrate how to undertake environmental, socio-cultural and economic assessments that establish the feasibility of new tourism ventures and ascertain their impact over time. Chapters cover fundamentals including how to conduct feasibility studies and business plans, and address key topics such as visitor management and overcrowding. Offering how-to tools and step-by-step guidance, this Handbook combines academic insight with extensive professional experience to outline the best practices for an array of tasks to inform sustainable tourism planning, development and operation.

Incorporating concrete solutions employed in numerous contexts, this Handbook is crucial reading for practitioners of sustainable tourism and agencies commissioning sustainable tourism assignments who are in need of innovative methods and up-to-date guidance in the field. It will also benefit tourism scholars, particularly those investigating practical methodologies for creating sustainable tourism experiences.

Due for publication in April 2021.
More information about Edward Elgar handbooks: