Press release: Open letter to COP26 leaders

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COP26 leaders urged to increase grassroots conservation funding by 15 leading global wildlife conservation donors.

Open letter highlights benefits of locally led nature conservation for mitigating climate change and reversing global biodiversity loss.

Today, [Wednesday 27th October], 15 leading global wildlife conservation donors and supporters are calling upon the UK Prime Minister and COP26 leaders, corporations and philanthropists to increase funding for locally led grassroots conservation projects, which play a vital role in mitigating climate change and reversing biodiversity loss around the world.

Despite evidence that locally led, targeted nature conservation – especially in regions worst hit by the climate emergency – is successful in conserving threatened species facing extinction, restoring ecosystems hanging in the balance and mitigating the devasting effects of climate change, only 3% of global climate finance is spent on nature-based solutions. Support for grassroots conservation is just a fraction of that.

Now, the open letter written by charities People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP), Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZF), The Rufford Foundation and the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN), and signed by ten other global organisations, is urging UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, COP26 President Alok Sharma, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and other world leaders to invest significant funding into global grassroots conservation projects, to help safeguard the future of life on earth with solutions that are proven to work, before it’s too late.

Nida Al-Fulaij, Conservation Research Manager at PTES explains: “Although climate change is rightly at the forefront of the worlds’ minds, we cannot lose sight of the biodiversity crisis that is also unfolding right before us, often because of climatic impacts. More funding relative to the scale of both crises is urgently needed to support ongoing and future grassroots conservation projects, as many also address the threats and devastating impacts of climate change.”

CASE STUDY: Saving Black Lion Tamarins and tackling climate change in Brazil

What’s the problem? Brazil’s Atlantic Forest once spanned over 1.3 million km2, but surging deforestation, compounded by weakening government legislation, has left just 14%. Species that call these isolated patches of forest home are at risk of genetic inbreeding, as well as further habitat loss.

What’s the solution? Whitley Award winner Laury Cullen (supported by WFN since 2002 with additional funding from The Rufford Foundation) has been working with landowners and community nurseries for the last 35 years to grow, sell and plant seedlings – slowly restoring this habitat to create Brazil’s largest forest corridor.

Results? Laury, his team from IPÊ and local people have planted 1.4 million trees. The once Critically Endangered Black Lion Tamarin has been re-classified as Endangered by the IUCN and 43,000 tons of carbon is being sequestered for every 500 hectares of forest planted. Green-job opportunities have also been provided for local communities to help restore the forest. 2020 Whitley Award winner Gabriela Rezende is continuing Laury’s work in Brazil, monitoring tamarins as their population begins to recover.

This work is proof that the solutions exist. The evidence is in. Grassroots conservation works.

Stuart Paterson, Executive Manager, Conservation Leadership Programme says: “While the climate emergency and biodiversity crises are on a global scale, many locally-led initiatives are delivering high impact solutions to save species and habitats at risk, whilst mitigating climate change and benefitting local communities at the same time. There has never been a greater need for increased support from the public sector, private sector and philanthropists to help communities with local knowledge to combat biodiversity loss and climate change.”

To date, PTES, CLP, The Rufford Foundation, the MBZ Fund, and WFN have together granted over £80 million to more than 9,000 projects in over 160 countries worldwide, providing solutions that have:

Danni Parks, Director, Whitley Fund for Nature adds: “Finance directed to innovative, inspiring, and locally led projects can be administered quickly and utilised nimbly, leading to rapid returns for people, climate and wildlife. Increased funding from government, industry and philanthropists that meets the scale of our environmental crises is urgently needed to enable more grassroots conservation projects to get off the ground globally. This work is safeguarding animals, plants and habitats that provide humanity with food, resources, clean air, fresh water, sustainable livelihoods, and contribute to wellbeing – a worthy investment.”

To read the open letter in full, visit and to join the conversation on social media use #GrantsForGrassroots and #COP26.

–  ENDS –

For high-res images, interview requests or further information, please contact Adela Cragg:

T: 07532 685 614


Notes to Editors

Interviewees available

  • Nida Al-Fulaij, Conservation Research Manager, People’s Trust for Endangered Species
  • Stuart Paterson, Executive Manager, Conservation Leadership Programme
  • Nicolas Heard, Head of Fund Management,  Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
  • Simon Mickleburgh, Grants Manager, The, Rufford Foundation
  • Danni Parks, Director, Whitley Fund for Nature

About People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES)

  • PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events.
  • PTES’ current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards, native woodlands, wood pasture and parkland and hedgerows.
  • PTES has Species Champions for three of its priority species: for hedgehogs The Rt Hon Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom & Ewell, for water voles The Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central and for dormice The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk.
  • Visit and follow PTES on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube & LinkedIn.

About the Conservation Leadership Programme  

  • The Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) is a partnership of three of the world’s leading biodiversity conservation organisations: Birdlife International; Fauna & Flora International and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Drawing upon the expertise of conservation professionals from across the globe, we direct project funding and training to early career leaders from developing countries who are tackling priority conservation challenges.
  • Since 1985, CLP has funded over 850 projects and internships in 100 countries
  • For more than 35 years we have been providing important career stepping stones to more than 2,900 individuals who now form an extensive global network of conservation practitioners.
  • Visit and follow CLP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

About Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund

  • The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (, based in Abu Dhabi, is a philanthropic endowment established in 2009 to provide small grants ($25,000 or less) to individual species conservation initiatives worldwide. To date, the Fund has provided over $22m in financial support to more than 2,300 species conservation projects across more than 160 countries supporting more than 1,400 different species and subspecies. The MBZ Fund’s reach in species conservation is global and it provides grants to all species types.
  • The small grants from the MBZ Fund are specifically intended to support boots-on-the-ground, direct species conservation projects, which usually require significant time and effort from conservationists who are in the field working directly to support and improve the status of endangered species in their natural habitat. The MBZ Fund is philosophically grounded on the premise that species of all types are the building blocks of life and that species conservationists are the first line of defence against their extinction.

About The Rufford Foundation

  • The Rufford Foundation ( is a private sector family foundation.
  • Our remit is to support nature conservation projects in the developing world.
  • We support individuals, mainly early career scientists, through The Rufford Small Grants Programme and currently give around £2 million a year in grants via this programme.

About the Whitley Fund for Nature

  • Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is a UK registered charity supporting grassroots conservation leaders across the Global South. Over 28 years it has fundraised and channeled £18million to more than 200 conservationists in 80 countries.
  • An early pioneer in the sector, WFN was one of the first charities to direct funding to locally-led projects. Its rigorous, and renowned, application process identifies inspiring individuals who combine the latest science with community-based action, to benefit wildlife, landscapes and people.
  • WFN’s flagship prizes – Whitley Awards – are presented by Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, at a prestigious annual ceremony in London. Winners receive funding, training and media profile including short films narrated by Trustee, Sir David Attenborough. They also join an international alumni network eligible for Continuation Funding, allowing successful conservation solutions to be scaled up. Half of WFN’s annual Continuation Funding is directed to nature-based solutions that benefit the climate, biodiversity and human wellbeing. Visit and follow WFN on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube & LinkedIn.

Photo credit: Katie Garrett

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