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Assessing the role of economic instruments in a policy mix for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services provision: a review of some methodological challenges

Barton, D.N. and Rusch, G. and May, P. and Ring, I. and Unnerstall, H. and Santos, R. and Antunes, P. and Brouwer, R. and Grieg-Gran, M. and Similä, J. and Primmer, E. and Romeiro, A. and DeClerck, F. and Ibrahim, M. (2009): Assessing the role of economic instruments in a policy mix for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services provision: a review of some methodological challenges.

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Abstract

In this paper we review a number of methodological challenges of evaluating and designing economic instruments aimed at biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services provision in the context of an existing policy mix. In the context of the EU 2010 goal of halting biodiversity loss, researchers have been called upon to evaluate the role of economic instruments for cost-effective decision-making, as well as non-market methods to assess their benefits. We argue that cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) and non-market valuation (NMV) methods are necessary, but not sufficient, approaches to assessing the role of economic instruments in a policy mix. We review the principles of “social-ecological-systems”(SES) (Ostrom et al. 2007) and discuss how SES can complement economic cost and benefit assessment methods, in particular in policy design research. To illustrate our conceptual comparison of assessment methodologies, we look at two examples of economic instruments at different government levels – payments for ecosystem services (PES) at farm level and ecological fiscal transfers to municipal /county government. What conceptual problems are introduced when evaluating policies in an instrument mix? How can the SES framework complement CEA and NMV in policy assessment and design? We draw on experiences from Brazil and Costa Rica to exemplify these questions. We conclude with some research questions.

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