International Day for Biological Diversity: Report recommends conservation basic income

Released in time for International Day for Biological Diversity, 22nd May, a new study has revealed the price of subsidising people living in environmentally vulnerable areas could be less than financial aid paid to polluting industries. 

green plant in clear glass vase

Overall, the introduction of a conservation basic income (CBI) is estimated to cost around £380bn per year for low and middle-income countries. Working out at £4.40 per person, per day, for those living in protected areas or alongside at-risk species, this expenditure would be less than the £400bn per year being paid to fossil fuel companies and other ecologically damaging firms. 

The research, conducted by the University of Edinburgh, also points to the fact that schemes such as a universal basic income — unconditional cash payments designed to help reduce poverty and improve wellbeing — would also potentially have a beneficial effect on protecting fragile ecosystems and biodiversity.

This is through a reduction in reliance on practices such as deforestation in order to earn a living. Currently, more than three quarters of people living in the planet’s most significant areas for biodiversity are in low- and middle-income nations. With this in mind, the team behind this work has outlined that these countries should be prioritised for a CBI payment initiative.  

Depending on the extent and exact numbers involved, the overall price of a working CBI scheme could be as high as £5.5tn annually. Various iterations were considered and modelled, including a fixed daily rate payment, 25% of national GDP person, and tiered rates based on the country’s income level. Even at the highest level, the cost would be dwarfed by the estimated £35tn in global economic production which is now dependent on nature. 

‘Addressing the climate and biodiversity crises will take ambitious action to transform our economies and societies. The CBI is a promising proposal to support the Indigenous peoples and local communities that safeguard the world’s biodiversity and land, and redress global inequalities,’ said Dr Emiel de Lange, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences. ‘Our study puts concrete numbers to this proposal, showing that CBI is an ambitious but potentially sensible investment. The next step is to pilot CBI schemes in partnership with Indigenous communities.’

Image: Micheile Henderson


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