Policy Brief: Enhancing the environment through payment for ecosystem services

The Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (RELU) has also produced a briefing paper on the potential for payment for ecosystem services (PES) to impact natural resource management, focusing on issues from a UK perspective. Ecosystem services, such as supplies of clean drinking water, pollination services, and the ability of habitat to lock up greenhouse gases, pose a unique problem because they belong to everyone or no one and it is difficult to put a monetary value on these services. PES seems to be offering a route to the better management of natural resources, and sources of untapped investment for the conservation of natural capital.

PES brings economic thinking and a market mechanism into the provision of natural resources, and has been used extensively in developing countries to help alleviate poverty and conserve natural resources. But examples of privately funded PES in the UK are few and of relatively small scale (although this is not the case elsewhere).
RELU notes that the UK’s Natural Environment White Paper commits the government to an ecosystems approach including the proper valuation of natural capital and the expansion of markets via PES approaches.

The full paper can be found here. For further analysis of the role of PES schemes and other market governance mechanisms you may be interested in this report, written by Tara Garnett of the FCRN for the International Institute for Environment and Development here.

If you have views on payments for ecosystem services we would welcome your views.  How successful have they been in your experience?  If so why and if not why not?  Under what conditions can they work or do they fail? 

25 Oct 2012