Safeguarding nature and people : Integrating economics, politics, and human rights to transform biodiversity policies and governance

Abstract: None of the world’s biodiversity goals from the last decade were fully met, as biodiversity losses are occurring at an unprecedented rate. Policies are not always effective; their use may have adverse effects on people and nature. Biodiversity offsets are an example of a policy that can be used to protect and restore biodiversity loss from economic development. Yet, offsets have been criticized for poor ecological outcomes, commodifying nature, and creating social inequality. To address this challenge, we need to learn from the shortcomings of biodiversity policies and governance as new goals are being drafted under the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.This thesis examines how biodiversity policies can be designed and implemented for effective and equitable outcomes for people and biodiversity. I focus on the design (Paper I) and implementation (Paper II) by examining economic instruments in conservation. I then broaden to the governance landscape by analysing the implementation of policies in national (Paper III) and international regulatory contexts (Paper IV).The 4 papers cover a diversity of cases across the globe at different governance levels. Paper I conducted a policy analysis of offsets from six countries (Australia, England, Germany, Madagascar, South Africa, and the US), through an economic framing of biodiversity trading and institutional arrangements. Paper II reviewed market instruments for conservation, ecotourism and sport hunting in eastern and southern Africa, to analyse whether these instruments can be compatible with new ideas for conservation such as conviviality. Paper III investigated the politics around Mekong hydropower development, through multi-stakeholder interviews and a discourse analysis of the social and environmental impacts of a dam in Laos. Paper IV examined the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and how review mechanisms of human rights law can improve compliance.This thesis highlights that a human rights-based approach provides important conceptual and political support for biodiversity governance. It contributes to the science-policy interface with these insights. First, the institutional design and implementation are as important for the outcomes as the type of policy. In economic policies such as offsets, a high involvement of the market does not influence the level of commensurability, but increases the degree of commodification. Second, the contextual factors (politics and power relations) of policies should be acknowledged to address inequality. An institutional design and implementation that ensures meaningful participation and a balance of power is crucial for effective and equitable outcomes. Review mechanisms used in human rights help to navigate power inequities, by ensuring that all rights-holders have a substantial voice.Third, offsets can be designed with different institutional arrangements (state, market, voluntary). If a market approach is chosen with biodiversity trading, effective monitoring and regulation is needed to safeguard biodiversity. Lastly, to foster compliance with policies, management and enforcement approaches can be used in a complementary manner through positive incentives, sunshine methods, and negative incentives. Overall, this thesis provides insights of how to meet our global goals for protecting and restoring biodiversity, while safeguarding people and nature.