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The Economics and Politics of Conservation


European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant 683031

2016 - 2021

Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT


  • While traditional environmental policies focus on the demand side by regulating emitting firms or consumers, this project aims at exploring how a supply-side policy would work, for instance by an environmental policy regulating the extraction of natural resources.
  • Since traditional climate and environmental policy so far have had limited success, a new approach is crucial.


More on the objectives

The project develops and applies game theory and political economy methods to address a number of important questions:

  1. Strategic conservation. How can the time profile of oil extraction, for example, influence the time profile of more harmful fossil fuels, such as coal, but also the development of renewable energy sources and other types of green technology?
  2. International agreements. Climate treaties have so far focused on the demand side. How will emission quotas determine the various countries’ choice of resource extraction, when they take into account that the resource stock they have left at the next bargaining round will influence their bargaining power and the bargaining outcome? One hypothesis is that since resource extraction will be strategic when such concerns are taken into account, it may be more efficient to (also) negotiate extraction rates.
  3. Deforestation contracts. For some types of resources, such as tropical forests, it is necessary with explicit compensations to succeed with conservation. While some such agreements are being established, we do not yet know much about how conservation contracts ought to be designed in order to be effective, neither from an economic, nor from a political point of view.
  4. Political concerns. To address the questions above in a realistic manner, the analysis will also take into account political economy forces: the resource stock that is conserved will be inherited by the political challenger when the opposition wins the election; political decisions are not made by isolated politicians, but typically through legislative bargaining and coalition formation; international treaties will tie the hands of the next policy maker, and may thus also influence the election. These concerns will influence the answer to the questions raised above, such as how deforestation contracts ought to be designed when political economy forces are taken into account. 


Funding is provided by the European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant.

The project has a budget of 1,57 million Euro (15 million NOK) and lasts five years, August 1st 2016 – July 31st 2021.

Principal investigator

This is the second ERC project led by principal investigator Bård Harstad. The first project, a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant called "General Institutional Equilibrium: Theory and Policy Implications", was operational from 2012 to 2016.


Published Oct. 4, 2016 9:04 AM - Last modified Mar. 23, 2020 1:31 PM


Bård Harstad

Principal Investigator

Kristen Vamsæter

Valer Olimpiu-Suteu

Research assistants