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Sustainability, Uncategorized

Conservation Basic Income

I’ve investigated universal basic income a bit. This is the idea that everyone gets a basic income regardless of where they work or how much they work. There are probably as many critics as there are supporters. I enjoyed this episode of Poverty Unpacked which discusses the concept and two different use cases. And this example of an experiment done with it in a rural community in Manitoba, Canada.

I had not heard of conservation basic income before, but the intention here is to provide basic income to populations living in important conservation areas with the intention of improving conservation outcomes. But how would this work?

The argument is that by providing a basic income to people in these conservation areas you can improve local, Indigenous economies, increase independence from exploitive corporations and industries, improve local health and education systems, and support local conservation strategies among other outcomes. De Lange and colleagues (2023) recently published a paper that worked to estimate the costs and outline the benefits of such a program. In the analysis they focused mostly on low and middle income countries where around 75-88% of eligible populations live.

The authors cite examples of where similar programs have had positive impacts such as anti-poverty cash transfers in Indonesia, which reduced rates of deforestation. They also discuss various benefits. For example, inequality including gender inequality tends to contribute to biodiversity loss, but basic income payments tend to reduce inequalities. Therefore, the payments should contribute to biodiversity conservation. Basic income can also strengthen the position of local and Indigenous communities during negotiations for access and extraction making it easier for them to enforce higher environmental and social standards and requirements. The payments can also help create resilience that can prevent extractive actions by the local communities as well. The authors focused their estimates on maintaining areas that still have high conservation value, but they recognize that there are lands that have been degraded and need restoration where conservation basic income may also be effective.

There are multiple ways that basic income can be calculated and the authors ran three scenarios. One that scaled payments based on GDP. One that payed a flat rate of $5.50 per day. And one that has different tiers based on World Bank poverty lines. They also considered different numbers of eligible individuals based on different criteria. The number of people eligible ranged between 232 million (approximately 3% of global population) to 1,638 million (21%). The costs therefore cover a wide range, from US$351 billion and US$6.73 trillion depending on the type of payment model and number of eligible people.

To put this in perspective, the amount of money accounts for between 0.41% and 8.00% of gross world product in 2020. Consider that for a moment. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but there are so many reasons to protect and conserve nature. This approach moves beyond that though and also includes social equity and potentially contributes to reconciliation with Indigenous people.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


2 thoughts on “Conservation Basic Income

  1. The idea of basic income has come into my awareness recently and I was wondering where to start with looking into to it. This is a great intro and gives me a start for more investigation so I can inform myself further. Thank you!


    Posted by Deirdre K. Bentley | May 29, 2023, 10:44 am

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