Garcia, Alberto, Robert Heilmayr. “Conservation impact evaluation using remotely sensed data” [SSRN working paper]
Conservation scientists increasingly measure the impacts of conservation interventions by applying quasi-experimental impact evaluation to remotely sensed panel data on land use change. However, these applications come with new challenges. Using Monte Carlo simulations and analytical proofs, we demonstrate that many of the panel econometric models employed for conservation impact evaluation are biased - the significance, magnitude and even direction of estimated effects from many studies are likely incorrect. These errors threaten to undermine the evidence base that underpins conservation policy adoption and design. We review the methods in this burgeoning literature and develop guidance for the design of econometric models quantifying conservation policy effectiveness.
Garcia, Alberto. “Targeting in Chilean payments for native forest recovery” [New version coming soon]
Widespread reforestation has become an important part of global efforts to address the intertwined challenges posed by climate change, biodiversity loss, and rural poverty. Conditional cash transfers are a popular tool to incentivize landowners to reduce deforestation, however, limited evidence exists on their effectiveness in the reforestation context. We evaluate the land cover impacts and targeting strategy of a Chilean federal program that pays landowners to restore their property with native species and prioritizes program co-benefits such as the engagement of rural smallholders and indigenous communities. While program compliance was low, we find significant but small vegetation cover impacts amongst compliant properties. Although prioritized social characteristics were associated with higher levels of non-compliance, administrators verified project completion, preventing significant unconditional cash transfers. In contrast to many studies on avoided deforestation, socially prioritized smallholders generated the most additional environmental benefits. These findings illustrate key differences between targeting for multiple objectives in payments for reforestation versus avoided deforestation.