USING MARKETS TO ACCELERATE CONSERVATION
Markets can create incentives to undertake restoration and conservation faster and more affordably. Our markets work focuses on uncovering and promoting the best applications of credits, tax incentives, payments and transferable access rights for conservation and highlighting how those markets could be designed to be more effective and efficient. Through incorporating data technology, innovative financing approaches and creating new markets opportunities, we can accelerate ecological restoration and expand our supply of clean water, wildlife habitat and equitable economic opportunity.
We believe government can find, nurture, and learn from new tools that help keep pace with technology and break away from the status quo of slow regulatory change. In our paper, Sandboxing Nature, we suggest taking an approach called a “regulatory sandbox”—a flexible testing ground for new innovations—and applying that to conservation, for faster conservation and restoration outcomes. What makes a sandbox unique is that it grants a temporary exemption from old regulations that impede new tech, but in a way that controls the risk for consumers. We think adopting a sandbox approach to conservation could foster a creative culture to help speed up environmental restoration.
Pay for Success is an exciting new way to pay for measurable environmental outcomes. Jurisdictions and stakeholders can buy environmental services just like buying goods. This has the potential to generate faster and cheaper delivery of environmental services such as clean water and stream restoration than status quo approaches. Faced with clunky and outdated environmental legislation that favors process over innovation, we work to uncover the best Pay for Success stories and iterate on the model to make it work for conservation in more places with better outcomes. Louisiana passed the nation’s first Pay for Success environmental restoration law but has struggled to let go of old contracting approaches and recognize the ways they are getting long-term cost savings from the applications the Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority is receiving.
NUTRIENT TRADING FOR CLEAN WATER
Water quality affects all people and ecosystems and we believe markets can incentivize cleaning up excess nutrients, like phosphorus and nitrogen, from our waterways. Nutrient trading—or mitigating water quality impacts through buying credits from entities that are actively restoring waterways and reducing nutrient impacts—is one way to address this issue. We work on improving nutrient trading programs through designing clearer policies that don’t simply move pollution around and that apply technology for more precise impact measurements.
Today we have more opportunities to quantify and manage our impacts on the environment through data technology than ever before. We work on researching how data can help us advance environmental markets through better use of metrics and measurement, and we support policies that incorporate data technology to keep practices cheaper and more streamlined. We collaborate with city and state governments, industry associations and nonprofit organizations to understand what’s working and where gaps exist that could be filled with data applications.
Payments to farmers for the same conservation practices differ around the country. Our new data visualization tool allows users to seamlessly explore the rates for hundreds of different practices, state-by-state.