New Bren School Lab Targets Solutions Through Markets

Environmental Initiative Works to Find Conservation Improvements with Positive Economic Benefits

The emLab team

A successful collaboration with the Indonesian government has led UCSB’s Bren School to create a lab that uses a similar technique for other global issues, for instance, climate change. Indonesia had an illegal fishing problem and banned all foreign boats and fishers from its waters in 2014. UCSB’s Sustainable Fisheries Group then worked with the Indonesians to verify whether the new law was working. In 2016, the country ranked 86th among foreign fishing fleets; the program worked. By controlling fishing among its own population, Indonesia could more effectively manage its fishing stock.

Why not use this technique on other issues that cross geographic boundaries, the professors at Bren pondered. Greenhouse gases move around just as schools of tuna do, with every country experiencing a different effect from the others while also influencing the outcome in different ways. The Environmental Market Solutions Lab (or emLab) was born. “We believe that markets and economic incentives can be powerful tools to align economic and conservation incentives,” wrote Chris Costello, an economist who founded the Fisheries Group with Steve Gaines, a marine ecologist who now leads the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.

Gaines and Costello initially got funding from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen for the Fisheries Group; Allen was intrigued by the idea of finding environmental solutions that worked through Bren’s expertise in analyzing large sets of data and to look at the issues through both an economic and environmental lens. Gaines had something larger like the emLab in mind when he pitched his idea. Now, alongside the original fisheries group, Bren has established climate solutions, productive landscape, and poverty alleviation groups and are partnering with countries and states on policies and reforms.

An Occasional Workshop in Environmental and Resource Economics takes place at UCSB November 9-10. The “Egg-Timer Presentations” (of 5 minutes) include ag water demand on the “micro-level” and also wind turbines and suicide, just two of the two dozen topics onstage for discussion by professors from Copenhagen to UCSB.


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