Nav: Home

Why conservation fails

November 28, 2016

Oxford, United Kingdom, November 28, 2016 - The only way for northern countries to halt deforestation in the South is to make sure land owners are paid more than it costs them to conserve the forest. However, there is a fundamental contradiction in this policy, according to new research published in the Journal of Economic Theory.

Deforestation in the tropics - the South - leads to biodiversity losses and contributes to global climate change. This indirectly affects northern countries, which often pay land owners to stop logging. Through theoretical modelling, the study highlights the problem that the South is willing to conserve forest today if they believe the North will pay in the future, but the North will only pay if forest is being threatened or logged.

"We've reached stalemate," said Professor Bård Harstad from the University of Oslo, the researcher behind the study. "This fundamental contradiction means the market for conservation is not efficient and that a forest must be logged with some chance or gradually to secure the funding needed to protect it."

More than 30 percent of the planet is forest. An estimated 120,000-150,000 square kilometers of forest are lost each year through fire, degradation and logging - the equivalent of 48 football fields every minute. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 1.6 billion people rely on forests directly to live.

Deforestation affects billions more people around the world indirectly, through its impact on climate change, water and nutrient cycling and food availability. Countries in the North can benefit more from conservation efforts in the South than the South receives through logging. As such, the North often funds conservation in the South, either by "buying" the land to conserve with a one-off payment or by "leasing" the land through ongoing payments.

In addition, the North and the South are not single entities; several countries are interested in funding conservation. This compounds the problem, as each country waits to see if the others will pay first.

According to Prof. Harstad, the problem is one of time inconsistency: the North may want to give the impression it will pay for conservation in the future in order to give the South an incentive to conserve today. But when that future arrives, the North wants to postpone payment. The answer, he says, could be for the North to commit to pay in the future through an international treaty.

The Paris Agreement on climate asks countries to protect forests, but there is still debate about whether avoided deforestation will be incorporated into tradable permit markets. The new research shows it is important to have a credible way to compensate countries that conserve forests. To be "credible," the compensation must be part of a treaty that commits countries to pay into a fund or to satisfy their national obligations. When such funds can be expected, the South will have an incentive to conserve today, in order to be compensated in the future.

"For conservation to work, it is not important that the payment happens today, but the commitment to future compensation must be established already now," explained Prof. Harstad.
-end-
Notes for editors

The article is "The market for conservation and other hostages," by Bård Harstad (doi: 10.1016/j.jet.2016.07.003). It appears in the Journal of Economic Theory, volume 166 (2016), published by Elsevier.

This study is published open access and can be downloaded from ScienceDirect.

About the Journal of Economic Theory

The Journal of Economic Theory publishes original research on economic theory. JET is the leading journal among those specializing in economic theory. It is also one of nine core journals in all of economics.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions -- among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey -- and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 35,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a world-leading provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries. http://www.elsevier.com

Media contact

Alexandra Walker
Elsevier
+44 1865 843364
a.walker@elsevier.com

Elsevier

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.