Providing incentives for biodiversity conservation

Offering incentives for sustainable use of biological resources
Shifting incentives for conserving biological diversity
Protecting biodiversity by market intervention
Shifting incentives to encourage positive effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, rather than negative ones. Contributing to the social and economic viability of systems supporting biodiversity as well as to the removal of incentives with perverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

New approaches, such as those embraced by the [Convention on Biological Diversity], are increasingly turning towards the use of incentives as instruments and mechanisms to induce people to change their behaviour. Because people behave rationally by basing decisions on an assessment of costs and benefits, the introduction of incentives by Governments is an important way in which people can be motivated to conserve and use biodiversity sustainably.

Some incentives are direct, and can be either financial, such as providing subsidies to restore threatened habitats, or in kind, such as providing nursery plants to traditional healers. Other incentives are indirect, and may be fiscal (e.g. tax breaks for funding conservation projects), service-orientated (e.g. awareness raising and skills training), voluntary (e.g. private nature reserves), or social (e.g. improving quality of life through tenure reform). In contrast, disincentives encourage desirable behaviour. A pollution tax for example, motivates businesses to reduce pollution. Some incentives, sometimes called "perverse incentives", actively encourage the depletion of biodiversity (e.g. drought relief subsidies).

In introducing new incentives, Governments should give consideration to (a) the need to remove existing incentives that discourage biodiversity conservation (so-called "perverse incentives"); and (b) the need to use an array of different instruments, based upon bioregional and social characteristics as well as the nature of the threat to biodiversity, to encourage biodiversity conservation in different areas.

This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends taking effective economic, social and other appropriate incentive measures to encourage the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of biological resources, including promotion of sustainable production systems, such as traditional methods of agriculture, agroforestry, forestry, range and wildlife management, which use, maintain or increase biodiversity.

Incentives for conserving biodiversity already exist in South Africa, and are applied with varying success. For example, conservancies, private nature reserves and South African Natural Heritage Sites accord recognition to landowners taking actions to conserve biodiversity. Similarly, education programmes and extension services provide motivational incentives to conserve biodiversity. Conservation strategies determine priorities and provide direction, and various tax concessions, aid and compensation schemes provide financial incentives for conservation. However, the effectiveness of these mechanisms is not known, and there are many "perverse incentives" in place which may counter such efforts.
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 15: Life on Land