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

Helena Gonçalves Fundação Agência das Bacias PCJ, Brazil
FSN Forum

1. What are the lessons learned from PES in developed and developing countries?

We have a lot of PES projects being developed in Brazil and it became a trend over here. Most of them are related to water, carbon and biodiversity. From my experience in this projects I can enumerate some challenges which those initiatives are meeting and trying to overcome:

  • Legal problems: some of the PES schemes are developed by municipalities or state government and there is a legal contradiction in the financial transaction (from the public to the private)
  • Forest Code: in some projects related to water conservation, the payment is related to the conservation or restoration of the “Permanent Preservation Areas – APPs”, defined by law and associated to some spatial limits, that some times are not being respected by the PES schemes. How to justify a payment for someone who is not even respecting the law?
  • About the voluntariness of PES projects: how to guarantee that the adhesion is volunteer if many projects are directly related to “helping the landowner to follow the law” and he is vulnerable to the penalties?
  • How to justify a payment to help someone follow the law but to someone else not? (the projects are not all-inclusive, not even in Brazil or in the cities they are developed)?
  • There are some projects where the price of the payment does not reach the opportunity cost, so it is not interesting to the landowner to join the project. So, there is financial support, but there is no environmental service provider.
  • In my opinion PES schemes MUST be integrated to environmental education, the ES providers MUST be involved and participate from the design of the project, and their suggestions and comments should be strongly considered in the implementation of the project, otherwise the change of behavior will be permanently related to the financial transaction.
  • Payment cannot be related to the total area of the farm, but to the area to be conserved or any methodology that value the service that portion of landscape is providing – otherwise the inequality will just be exacerbated.

2. PES can be conceived as a diverse set of policies, institutions and processes that mobilize funding from direct beneficiaries, taxpayers, consumers and other interested parties to reward/remunerate/pay providers of environmental services. Which type of PES-related policy instruments would you recommend for your own particular country and why?

In Brazil there is a Law Project to regulate the PES policies, but it is “locked” in the congress for 7 years already. At the same time, we figure many types of PES schemes, adopting several solutions and methodologies, trying to fit the local reality and financial support available. Projects are developed by NGOs, municipalities, state governments, companies, and are paying totally different amounts (many times for the same services).

Despite recognizing the importance of adopting methodologies adequated to the local reality, I wonder if the results and impact of them would not reach higher proportion if following a “model” or unique strategy.

In fact there is a initiative from ANA (Water National Agency) called “Produtor de Água” that stimulates the development of PES projects and gives technical assistance to it. Anyway, the “PES trend” is making many initiatives emerge, sometimes without enough prepare and assistance.

In São Paulo, the Environmental Secretary tried for years to develop an incentive program to the municipalities create PES projects to protect water springs. But it didn´t work. Now the idea is to give farmers who intend to get adequated to the Forest Code, all the tools to do it: fences, seedlings. Instead of paying them.

3. What should be the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in making PES work for sustainable development?

In some places, where there are a great number of small properties, focus on individual farmers is the only way to reach conservation of relevant areas, where there is potential and necessity of environmental services providing. Those areas are populated and you can not just remove the population. You have to give them ways to provide these services. PES is one of the possibilities.