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Re: Payments for environmental services (PES) in theory and practice: Lessons learned and way forward

Gill Shepherd IUCN, United Kingdom
05.03.2013
Gill Shepherd

I like Dr John Kazer's comments about PES in the UK very much. However, the fact that, to date, CAP farm payments for set-aside have been insufficiently monitored for the effectiveness of inputs to outputs is a reason to try harder, not a reason to abandon these types of payments.

I was surpised at a recent meeting to find that PES purists do not regard these European payment systems as proper PES at all.  I don't think we will progress far if we are that picky. PES is such a messy area at the moment, with so few genuine successes, that in my view we should be considering as wide a range of models as possible and monitoring them for impact and effectiveness.

In remoter developing country contexts, we run, as we know, into many more problems. Probably top of the list are these:

  • Ambiguous tenure (people feel they own communal land, through tradition and customary law, that the national government does not regard as theirs)
  • Payments of many kinds to rural people (benefit-sharing schemes, payments by loggers or mining companies to local people whose lands are exploited) are curtailed, paid to the wrong people, kept by chiefs and not distributed further, etc. If the flaws in these earlier systems are not understood and dealt with, PES cannot succeed either.
  • Payments are too low to effect changes in behaviour

PES is an economist's dream solution -  put a price on what has not previously been monetised, pay for it, and all will be well. But the social complexities of the deal are still being hugely under-rated.