Case studies carried out in Europe and Latin America as part of the EU-funded POLICYMIX project have shed new light on how the right mix of forest governance policies can help to conserve biodiversity and boost local economies.
Forest management strategies have traditionally been assessed on their individual merits, especially their perceived cost-effectiveness. An EU-funded project has shown that what is needed is a better understanding of how all forest-related policies and their components, such as economic benefits, social impacts, legal and institutional options, help – or hinder – biodiversity conservation.
“POLICYMIX aimed to shift policy assessment away from a focus on ‘the cost-effectiveness of individual policies’ towards understanding of how instruments interact with one another,” explains project coordinator David Barton from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA). “Guidelines, reports and technical briefs for assessing the conservation and social impact and institutional fit of various economic instruments have been developed.”
Researchers also determined the extent to which policy lessons can be transferred from Europe to Latin America, and what lessons can be drawn for Europe from the experience of innovative policy approaches practised in Latin America. An online analysis toolbox is available (http://policymix.nina.no/Policymix-tool), which includes software that enables users to experiment with different combinations of policies and their potential effects on a simulated forest landscape.
The value of policy mix analysis
The core of the project has been seven key case studies, carried out in Europe and Latin America. Allowing for an effective exchange of knowledge and experiences, they involved Brazil (Mato Grosso and Mata Atlântica), Costa Rica, Norway, Finland, Germany and Portugal. The project included two additional case studies in Australia and Colombia.
In Norway, for example, policy mix analysis provided findings with the potential to improve the cost-effectiveness of new conservation areas. The researchers reviewed in particular voluntary forest conservation – Norway’s main approach to forest conservation. The study team also looked at methods that can be used to locate areas of forest rich in biodiversity that minimise losses to forestry; the concept of harvesting low hanging fruit. They reviewed the potential of several new economic policies that affect policy management in the country, including subsidy reforms.
Benefits to local communities
A case study of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso was able to identify existing policy tools that local stakeholders could use to promote regional concerns while at the same time remaining compatible with national legislation.
“We focused on the role of municipal governments, agrarian reform beneficiaries and indigenous groups in making use of existing economic instruments as the basis for advancing the local environmental agenda in compatibility with the new national forest legislation,” explains case study coordinator Peter May.
“A key achievement has been the devolution of policy implications and potential benefits to stakeholders in the northwest region of Mato Grosso. This was accomplished through a research expedition to settlements and municipal government offices in order to present the project’s results, and through the diffusion of a film on the process and its potential benefits. The long term result will be reduced implementation costs to achieve biodiversity conservation and deforestation reduction targets,” he adds.
POLICYMIX, completed in April 2014, has also contributed to the Quito Dialogue on Scaling up Finance for Biodiversity, under the Convention on Biodiversity. This contribution involved evaluating financial mechanisms and assessing challenges to the Convention’s objectives on conservation.