Economics fellow Professor Elizabeth Baldwin is part of an Oxford team bringing subsidy auctioning to the rescue of England’s endangered turtle doves.
Despite prominent roles in literature and popular culture – from Chaucer and Shakespeare to The Twelve Days of Christmas – turtle doves are now the UK’s fastest declining bird species; their numbers have plummeted by 98% since the 1970s.
Now, Elizabeth Baldwin and her Oxford colleagues Paul Klemperer and Alex Teytelboym are coming to the birds’ rescue with their economic auctioning system for farming subsidies. Working alongside Defra and the RSPB, the Oxford economists have designed a reverse auction in which farmers can place bids to win contracts to provide suitable habitats for the species. These bids are assessed using an index of turtle dove happiness which seeks to maximise the benefits for the birds within a given budget – from wildflower seeds and shallow-sided open water to scrubby hedgerows for nesting.
The system has so far been used in two pilot auctions in Norfolk and Suffolk and could prove influential as the government seeks to reform the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy in the post-Brexit reassessment of farming subsidies. Speaking to the Financial Times, the RSPB’s Jake Zarins said: “No matter what your views [are] on Brexit, alternatives to the Common Agricultural Policy can only be seen as a good thing. This is a really good opportunity to find a balance that works for everybody.”