The Privatisation of Biodiversity?

The Privatisation of Biodiversity?

New Approaches to Conservation Law

New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series

Colin T. Reid and Walters Nsoh

Current regulatory approaches have not prevented the loss of biodiversity across the world. This book explores the scope to strengthen conservation by using different legal mechanisms such as biodiversity offsetting, payment for ecosystem services and conservation covenants, as well as tradable development rights and taxation. The authors discuss how such mechanisms introduce elemhents of a market approach as well as private sector initiative and resources. They show how examples already in operation serve to highlight the design challenges, legal, technical and ethical, that must be overcome if these mechanisms are to be effective and widely accepted.

Chapter 3: Payment for ecosystem services

Colin T. Reid and Walters Nsoh

Subjects: environment, environmental governance and regulation, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law


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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