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Category: Global

Tackling debt, biodiversity loss, and climate change

Elizabeth C. Losos, Alexander Pfaff, and Stuart L. Pimm
Science volume 343 issue 6696 (2024) 10.1126/science. ado7418

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A “Task Force on Sustainability-Linked Sovereign Financing for Nature and Climate” will convene to establish a framework to ameliorate the debt, biodiversity, and climate crises by reforming debt-for-nature swaps, i.e., voluntary transactions in which creditors reduce or cancel debt in exchange for debtor-country commitments to fund specific environmental activities. We identify four reforms that should underpin the new framework: (i) Offer debt relief at a nationally consequential scale; (ii) defer to debtors on implementation to reduce transaction costs and raise debtors’ benefits; (iii) employ performance-linked instruments based on reliable metrics to ensure global gains; and (iv) integrate all of those metrics across biodiversity conservation, emissions reduction, and climate adaptation to allocate funds most efficiently.

 

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A diverse portfolio of marine protected areas can better advance global conservation and equity

David A. Gill, Sarah E. Lester, Christopher M. Free, Alexander Pfaff, Edwin Iversen, Brian J. Reich, Shu Yang, Gabby Ahmadia, Dominic A. Andradi-Brown, Emily S. Darling, Graham J. Edgar, Helen E. Fox, Jonas Geldmann, Duong Trung Lea, Michael B. Mascia, Roosevelt Mesa-Gutiérrez, Peter J. Mumby, Laura Veverka, and Laura M. Warmuth
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 121 (2024) https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2313205121

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Marine protected areas (MPAs) are widely used for ocean conservation, yet the relative impacts of various types of MPAs are poorly understood. We estimated impacts on fish biomass from no-take and multiple-use (fished) MPAs, employing a rigorous matched counterfactual design with a global dataset of >14,000 surveys in and around 216 MPAs. Both no-take and multiple-use MPAs generated positive conservation outcomes relative to no protection (58.2% and 12.6% fish biomass increases, respectively), with smaller estimated differences between the two MPA types when controlling for additional confounding factors (8.3% increase). Relative performance depended on context and management: no-take MPAs performed better in areas of high human pressure but similar to multiple-use in remote locations. Multiple-use MPA performance was low in high-pressure areas but improved significantly with better management, producing similar outcomes to no-take MPAs when adequately staffed and appropriate use regulations were applied. For priority conservation areas where no-take restrictions are not possible or ethical, our findings show that a portfolio of well-designed and well-managed multiple-use MPAs represents a viable and potentially equitable pathway to advance local and global conservation.

 

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Environmental Policies Benefit Economic Development: Implications of Economic Geography

Seth Morgan, Alexander Pfaff, Julien Wolfersberger
Annual Review of Resource Economists (2022) https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-resource-111920-
022804

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For over a century, starting with the work of Alfred Marshall (and also in resource economics), economic geography has emphasized the productivity of dense urban agglomerations. Yet little attention is paid to one key policy implication of economic geography’s core mechanisms: Environmental policies can aid economic development, per se—not hurting the economy to help the environment but advancing both objectives.We review mechanisms from economic geography that imply that environmental policies can deliver such win-wins: influences upon agglomeration of long-tanding natural conditions, like usable bays, which long were perceived as fixed yet now are being shifted by global environmental quality; agglomeration’s effects on other influential conditions, like urban environmental quality; and the effects of rural environmental quality on the flows to cities of people and environmental quality. Finally, we consider a geographic policy typology in asking why society leaves money on the table by failing to promote environmental policies despite the potential win-wins that we highlight.

 

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The Effectiveness of Forest Conservation Policies and Programs

Jan Borner, Dario Schulz, Sven Wunder, Alexander Pfaff
Annual Review of Resource Economics 12:19.1-19.20 (2020) https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-resource-110119-025703

The world’s forests provide valuable contributions to people but continue to be threatened by agricultural expansion and other land uses.Counterfactual-based methods are increasingly used to evaluate forest conservation initiatives. This review synthesizes recent studies quantifying the impacts of such policies and programs.Extending past reviews focused on instrument choice, design, and implementation, our theory of change explicitly acknowledges context. Screening over 60,000 abstracts yielded 136 comparable normalized effect sizes (Cohen’s d). Comparing across instrument categories, evaluation methods, and contexts suggests not only a lack of “silver bullets” in the conservation toolbox, but that effectiveness is also low on average. Yet context is critical. Many interventions in our sample were implemented in “bulletproof” contexts of low pressure on natural resources. This greatly limits their potential impacts and suggests the need to invest further not only in understanding but also in better aligning conservation with local and global development goals.

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Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change

Sandra Diaz, Josep Settele, Eduardo Brondizio, H.T. Ngo, A. Arneth, P. Balvanera, K.A. Brauman, S.H.M. Butchart, K.M.A. Chan, L.A. Garibaldi, K. Ichii, J. Liu, S.M. Subramanian, G.F. Midgley, P. Miloslavish, Z. Molnar, D. Obura, A. Pfaff, S. Polasky, A. Purvis, J. Razzaque, B. Reyers, R.R. Chowdury, Y. Shin, I. Visseren-Hamakers, K.J. Willis, C.N. Zayas
Science 366 DOI:10.1126/science.aaw3100

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The human impact on life on Earth has increased sharply since the 1970s, driven by the demands of a growing population with rising average per capita income. Nature is currently supplying more materials than ever before, but this has come at the high cost of unprecedented global declines in the extent and integrity of ecosystems, distinctness of local ecological communities, abundance and number of wild species, and the number of local domesticated varieties. Such changes reduce vital benefits that people receive from nature and threaten the quality of life of future generations. Both the benefits of an expanding economy and the costs of reducing nature’s benefits are unequally distributed. The fabric of life on which we all depend — nature and its contributions to people — is unravelling rapidly. Despite the severity of the threats and lack of enough progress in tackling them to date, opportunities exist to change future trajectories through transformative action. Such action must begin immediately, however, and address the root economic, social, and technological causes of nature’s deterioration.

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Summary for Policy Makers, IPBES Global Assessment

Sandra Diaz, Josep Settele, Eduardo Brondizio, H.T. Ngo, A. Arneth, P. Balvanera, K.A. Brauman, S.H.M. Butchart, K.M.A. Chan, L.A. Garibaldi, K. Ichii, J. Liu, S.M. Subramanian, G.F. Midgley, P. Miloslavish, Z. Molnar, D. Obura, A. Pfaff, S. Polasky, A. Purvis, J. Razzaque, B. Reyers, R.R. Chowdury, Y. Shin, I. Visseren-Hamakers, K.J. Willis, C.N. Zayas
Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Global Assessment 2019

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The rate of global change in nature during the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history. The direct drivers of change in nature with the largest global impact have been (starting with those with most impact): changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution; and invasion of alien species. Those five direct drivers result from an array of underlying causes – the indirect drivers of change – which are in turn underpinned by societal values and behaviours that include production and consumption patterns, human population dynamics and trends, trade, technological innovations and local through global governance. The rate of change in the direct and indirect drivers differs among regions and countries.

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