A Study of Canadian Conservation Offset Programs

Lessons Learned from a Review of Programs, Analysis of Stakeholder Perceptions, and Investigation of Transactions Costs

The use of conservation offsets to achieve environmental goals is becoming more prominent, both in Canada and around the world. In order to build new, effective programs, it is useful to evaluate current programs for the lessons that can be learned. Much of the existing literature focuses on evaluating offset programs from a biological perspective or an economic perspective. To fully evaluate a program, elements of both disciplines should be used. The following paper develops a framework using existing criteria from both the biological and economic literature. The framework is then applied to several Canadian and one international case study to identify what lessons can be learned. Interviews with key stakeholders in the design of existing offset programs are used to expand the discussion on the lessons learned. The paper concludes with a discussion of lessons that are learned through the literature review, application of the framework, and interview responses.

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About the Project

The goal of this project is to shed light on the relationship between economic activity and the environment by exploring the linkages between changes in our natural capital and our measures of productivity generally, and through the construction of an environmentally adjusted measure of productivity specifically.

While it is now commonly accepted that economic activity and the state of our environment are linked, many economic measures still fail to incorporate the environment – both the things we draw from it and the pollution we release into it. By developing and calculating measures of productivity that include natural capital, Canada may be able to better understand these linkages. This, in turn, may lead to the identification of strategies that can help Canada become more efficient and innovative in the use and protection of natural capital, and thus more productive and more prosperous.

Using the forestry sector as a case study, this project aims to construct an environmentally adjusted measure of multifactor productivity. In doing so, we aim to add another layer of understanding to the environmental and economic performance of this sector. The proposed measure will have relevance to the Canadian economy as a whole.