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Sharing and Expanding the Co-Benefits of Conservation

  • Christopher Costello,
  • Daniel Kaffine
  • Abstract

    Conservation interventions typically focus on protecting public goods, but they often also create private spillover co-benefits. For example, protecting open space may increase the values of adjacent properties, and protecting a coral reef may increase fishing opportunities outside. These privately-captured co-benefits can confer substantial value but are rarely tapped to help promote and expand conservation efforts. One reason, we argue, is that doing so is difficult: While co-beneficiaries are easily convinced of the benefits of the conservation intervention, they are not obliged to pay for it, and so usually free-ride and enjoy these benefits gratis. In this paper, we document and quantify the magnitude of co-benefits in the literature and identify the conditions under which co-benefits could be tapped to offset the cost of conservation for conservationists. In light of these conditions, we propose an approach that involves voluntary compensation for the provision of co-benefits to expand the total amount of resources available for conservation efforts. We show that taking advantage of these co-benefits lowers the cost of implementing conservation actions while being incentive compatible for all parties involved.


    Written By
    • Christopher Costello
      • Board Member,
      • Senior Fellow

      Christopher Costello is a professor of Environmental and Resource Economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is research director of the Environmental Markets Lab and a Research Associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is also on the board of Environmental Defense Fund and Global Fishing Watch and serves on the Council of Economic Advisors for California’s Governor.

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