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The Brazilian intergovernmental fiscal transfer for conservation: a successful but self-limiting incentive program

Patricia G.C. Ruggiero, Alexander Pfaff, Paula Pereda, Elizabeth Nicholas, Jean Paul Metzger
Ecological Economics 191 (2021) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2021.107219

Brazil’s ecological intergovernmental fiscal transfer (ICMS-E) is a conservation incentive for protected areas (PAs). It redistributes tax revenues to reward municipalities for hosting PAs. To quantify its impact on the creation of state and municipal PAs, we used panel regressions on a longitudinal municipality dataset that combined information on PA creation and ICMS-E implementation for the 1467 municipalities in 6 Brazilian states in the Atlantic Forest region that never changed borders, from 1987 to 2016. We found that the percent of the municipal area covered with state or municipal PAs increased as a consequence of ICMS-E implementation. However, the magnitude of this effect declined as the ICMS-E revenue is shared more widely due to the expansion of PAs that reduced the gain from new PAs. We also found that ICMS-E policy primarily spurred the creation of PAs with less restrictive rules – similar to IUCN category V reserves – mainly by municipalities. For more restrictive PAs with higher local costs for municipalities, ICMS-E promoted state-proposed PAs but not municipal PAs. Our results suggest that states used ICMS-E to incentivize local implementation of their conservation preferences, including strict conservation, while municipal governments responded mostly with low-cost actions to increase their revenues.