Ensuring sustainable supply of goods and services from forests to enhance their vital contributions to socio-economic development lies at the core of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM). Yet, SFM in the tropics is often less profitable than other land-uses because many of the goods and services forests produce lack formal markets. Hence achieving SFM requires the provision of appropriate economic incentives and instruments. In this regard, it is important to promote investment in and payment for all the goods and services provided by tropical forests while capitalizing on all their economic values. Payments for forest environmental (or ecosystem) services such as biodiversity, tourism and recreation, water conservation, soil protection and climate change mitigation, known in general as PES, is one such innovative means of financing SFM.

PES have been around for some time now and they have been touted as major means to addressing the challenge of financing SFM and tropical forest conservation, with the potential for rendering significant positive social and economic outcomes. They aim to address market failure by providing incentives to land users to make it more desirable for them to sustainably manage forests than to degrade or deplete them. However, currently, many PES mechanisms are small and scattered. Many of them are also unsustainable without regular and strong external support.

In the tropics, PES have been developed and/or under implementation with the involvement of a number of local communities under various initiatives. For instance, Costa Rica has implemented PES programme since 1996 through its National Forest Law by recognizing four categories of forest environmental services. These include: mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions; hydrological services (drinking water, irrigation and energy production); biodiversity conservation; and providing scenic beauty. ITTO’s Thematic Programme on Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Enhancing Environmental Services in Tropical Forests (REDDES) promotes the capacity of ITTO developing member countries and their stakeholders to maintain and enhance environmental services of tropical forests in order to contribute to the social and economic sustainability and well-being of forest-dependent communities through PES. Similarly, FAO has been championing the significance of PES in promoting SFM and has been striving to enhance the capacities of member countries to develop and implement effective and viable PES mechanisms.

The International Forum on Payments for Environmental Services of Tropical Forests aims to highlight the importance of developing and implementing PES mechanisms in tropical countries and to share best practices and lessons learned from the many activities and projects that have been undertaken in recent years to scale up global efforts to promote PES. The International Forum is expected to recommend actions at local, national and international levels for the development and effective implementation of PES mechanisms in support of SFM in the tropics. It will bring together policymakers, researchers and academicians, practitioners, civil society, the private sector, and regional and international organizations engaged in the development, implementation and support of of PES mechanisms.

last updated:  Friday, November 29, 2013