Neoliberal conservation describes a dynamic wherein prominent organizations around the world concerned with biodiversity protection have increasingly adopted strategies and mechanisms that seek to reconcile conservation with economic development by harnessing economic markets as putative mechanisms for financing nature conservation. Since the turn of the millennium, a vibrant discussion around this topic has arisen across anthropology, geography, and related fields. Within this discussion, the rise of neoliberal conservation is generally treated as part of more widespread processes of neoliberalization occurring throughout the global economy since the 1980s, promoting a constellation of core principles including privatization, marketization, decentralization, deregulation, and commodification. Neoliberal conservation arose out of a growing concern among prominent conservation organizations to include poverty reduction and economic development within their mandates as well as to capture additional funding via partnerships with wealthy corporations. It is commonly implemented through a series of so-called market-based instruments (MBIs), including ecotourism, payment for environmental services (PES), and biodiversity and wetlands banking, as well as financial mechanisms such as green bonds.
However, evidence suggests that promotion of neoliberal conservation rarely achieves intended outcomes in actual implementation. This has led some researchers to argue that these activities are thus not neoliberal at all, while others defend this characterization within an understanding of neoliberalization as a variegated process. Researchers also point to the rise of right-wing authoritarianism as a potential challenge to neoliberal hegemony, yet the implications of this trend for conservation policy and practice remain little explored. Thus, the important open question is raised of whether neoliberal conservation was the product of a particular political era that is coming to an end, and if so, what will arise in its aftermath.