Information and (random) thoughts on environmental governance
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Identifying Governance Strategies that Support Conservation Outcomes

pnas 29 March 2011

This week’s issue of PNAS brings an article on the performance of governance strategies in achieving three conservation outcomes: provision of ecosystem services, sustainability of resource use, and conservation of biodiversity. In the article, R. E. Kenward and colleagues develop an analytical framework that attempts to explain how economic, societal and ecological impacts of different governance strategies are influenced by three broad categories of variables : (1) initial capacity, (2) management priorities and (3) main processes and tools aimed at those priorities. Thirty four local and international case studies were used in the analysis. The findings support the benefits of adaptive management and the role of leadership. The conservation outcomes investigated were associated with different sets of governance strategies. It means that a combination of strategies will be required for achieving simultaneously provision of ecosystem services, sustainability of resource use, and conservation of biodiversity. In that case, some compromise would be expected because governance strategies that benefit one outcome may not necessarily be supportive of the other two. For example, strategies featuring ecological priorities seem to benefit biodiversity conservation whereas those featuring economic priorities seem to benefit ecosystem services.

Kenward et al. 2011. Identifying governance strategies that effectively support ecosystem services, resource sustainability, and biodiversity. PNAS 118(13): 5308–5312.

March 31, 2011   No Comments

Economic Incentives for Marine Conservation

The Economic Incentives for Marine Conservation guidebook, produced by Conservation International in collaboration with the Integration & Application Network of the University of Maryland, has just been released.

Incentives guidebook

The challenge of making conservation economically attractive is a critical hurdle for the creation and effective management of marine managed areas. This document describes three approaches to shaping incentives, project design and tool selection, and provides 27 case studies worldwide where incentives were employed in changing behaviour.

The guidebook can be downloaded at

January 20, 2011   No Comments

Is Global Action the Only Solution to Climate Change?

Secretary of UNFCCC Yvo De Boer Opens the Unit...

Image via Wikipedia

For many policy analysts reducing the threats of climate change requires an enforceable global treaty. But, global agreements have proven difficult to negotiate. Just remember the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15) held last year in Copenhagen, which fell short of producing a meaningful outcome. Also, reaching a global agreement on climate change involves dealing with sensitive issues, such as the responsibility of developed countries for the current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, the “rights” of developing countries to pursue economic growth, and who should bear the costs for solutions. For that reason, an enforceable agreement involving the major emitters of greenhouse gases may take a long time to be reached.

Elinor Ostrom – who was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for her research on governance – argues that just waiting for a global solution defeats the possibilities of substantial action to prevent dangerous climate change. In a recent paper published in the 20th Anniversary Special Issue of Global Environmental Change(1), she argues that averting climate threats require collective action at diverse levels (local, regional, national and global). By the way, global problems result from cumulative actions of individuals, families, small groups, private firms, and local, regional and national governments.

While a global agreement is yet to be realised, action is being taken by individuals, community groups, NGOs, and local, state and national governments. The examples are many: individuals cycling to work rather than driving; households replacing conventional light bulbs with more energy efficient ones, or installing solar panels; private firms and government investing in better designed buildings; and local and state governments engaging in programs to reduce their carbon “footprint”. While these actions have yet to make a significant contribution to reducing emissions, they create compound benefits – and these benefits are slowly cumulating. Also, action at multiple scales may enhance innovation, learning and adaptation, and the realisation of more sustainable outcomes.

For Ostrom there is no question that a global treaty is a major step that needs to be taken in tackling climate change. However, she challenges the assumption that only the global scale is relevant for policies related to global problems. It is important to take into consideration the potential of climate action at multiple scales too. Global efforts need to be backed by national, regional and local efforts to have a chance to work well. “Think globally but act locally”, does the slogan sound familiar?

(1) Polycentric Systems for Coping with Collective Action and Global Environmental Change. Global Environmental Change, 20: 550–557, doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2010.07.004

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November 7, 2010   No Comments

Effects of Population Change on CO2 Emissions

World population

Image by Arenamontanus via Flickr

After being silent for nearly a month, I am back to blogging and now committed to write, at least, a new post every week.  This week’s post is on the link between demographic trends and CO2 emissions. Please feel free to leave your comment below.

Population growth has been affecting energy use and greenhouse gas emissions growth for the last several decades. The relation between demographics and carbon emissions seems to be obvious. As the human population grows so does the demand for energy; as more energy from fossil fuel is used, more greenhouse gases are produced. Energy demand and emissions can also be affected by a range of demographic dynamics, such as urbanisation, aging and household size, according to a study featured this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

The implications of demographic change for global emissions have been assessed by Brian O’Neil – from the Climate and Global Dynamics Division and Integrated Science Program, National Center for Atmospheric Research – and colleagues. These researchers developed a set of economic growth, energy use, and emissions scenarios using data from 34 countries, representing 61% of the global population, and an energy–economic growth model. The model used – the Population-Environment-Technology (PET) model – accounts for the effect of (i) population growth rates on economic growth rates, (ii) age structure changes on labour supply, (iii) urbanisation on labour productivity, and (iv) anticipated demographic change (and its economic effects) on savings and consumption behaviour.

O’Neil and colleagues show that both changes in population composition and size can have a significant effect on emissions in certain regions. For example, they estimate that aging can reduce emissions by up to 20% in the long term, particularly in developed country regions. Urbanization, on the other hand, can increase projected emissions by more than 25% in developing country regions. A slow population growth could help to achieve 16-29% of emissions reductions suggested to be needed to avoid dangerous climate change by 2050. By the end of the century the effect of slower population growth could be even greater, accounting for reductions of 37-41% in emissions from fossil fuel use. Given such significant influence of demographics on emissions, the study suggests that family planning policies would have an important role in mitigating climate change.

Global Demographic Trends and Future Carbon Emissions. O’Neil, B. et al. (2010), PNAS, Vol 107, no. 41,

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October 17, 2010   No Comments

Elites and Institutional Persistence

Recent publication from UNU-Wider:

Particular sets of institutions, once they become established in a society, have a strong tendency to persist. In this paper I argue that understanding how elites form and reproduce is key to understanding the persistence of institutions over time. I illustrate this idea with a simple political economy theory of institutions and through examples from Liberia, the US, South Africa and Germany I show how elites influence institutions. To change institutions requires having an understanding of how reforms influence the preferences, capabilities and strategies of elites.

PDF version available here

September 20, 2010   No Comments

Community-based adaptation to climate change

This special issue of Participatory Learning and Action focuses on recent approaches to climate change adaptation which are community-based and participatory, building on the priorities, knowledge, and capacities of local people. It discusses how community-based approaches to climate change have emerged, and the similarities and differences between CBA and other participatory development and disaster risk reduction approaches. It highlights innovative participatory methods which are developing to help communities analyse the causes and effects of climate change, integrate scientific and community knowledge of climate change, and plan adaptation measures. Whilst CBA is a relatively new field, some lessons and challenges are beginning to emerge, including how to integrate disaster risk reduction, livelihoods and climate change adaptation work, climate change knowledge gaps, issues around the type and quality of participation, and the need for policies and institutions that support CBA.

Full publication available at:

September 4, 2010   No Comments