New Approaches to Conservation Law
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Payment for ecosystem services (PES) involves payments made in exchange for the management of land to maintain or enhance the range of services that it provides to the public at large or to more specific beneficiaries. The aim is to provide a financial incentive for continued service provision, saving beneficiaries the vast cost of replacing them. The legal arrangements for a PES scheme can take the form of transactions made on a voluntary basis, but some may also involve mandatory elements. Existing schemes around the world offer examples of how important design issues can be dealt with. Essential starting points in such schemes include matching those who benefit from a service with those who provide it and providing a means of valuing the service(s) to be paid for. Buyers of services must be able to identify who is eligible to receive payments, a task that is not always straightforward where there is a lack of certainty over the property rights which provide control over land management. Other design issues include drafting contracts that assure the parties that obligations will be met in the short, medium and long terms and establishing mechanisms for the overall governance of the schemes to ensure that they are widely seen as having legitimacy, especially when private arrangements are used to pursue public goals. Besides the technical challenges there is also the question of which landowners should be supported by such schemes: those who currently provide the most services, or those whose lands offer the greatest potential for enhancement, or every landowner who provides ecosystem services. Moreover, there is a need to address the issue of those who do not contribute but continue to receive benefits, especially given the public goods character of biodiversity services.
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