Payments for ecosystem services (PES), also known as payments for environmental services (or benefits), are incentives offered to farmers or landowners in exchange for managing their land to provide some sort of ecological service. They have been defined as “a transparent system for the additional provision of environmental services through conditional payments to voluntary providers.” These programmes promote the conservation of natural resources in the marketplace.
Ecosystem services have no standardized definition but might broadly be called “the benefits of nature to households, communities, and economies” or, more simply, “the good things nature does.” Twenty-four specific ecosystem services were identified and assessed by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a 2005 UN-sponsored report designed to assess the state of the world’s ecosystems. The report defined the broad categories of ecosystem services as food production (in the form of crops, livestock, capture fisheries, aquaculture, and wild foods), fiber (in the form of timber, cotton, hemp, and silk), genetic resources (biochemicals, natural medicines, and pharmaceuticals), fresh water, air quality regulation, climate regulation, water regulation, erosion regulation, water purification and waste treatment, disease regulation, pest regulation, pollination, natural hazard regulation, and cultural services (including spiritual, religious, and aesthetic values, recreation and ecotourism).
Notably, however, there is a “big three” among these 24 services which are curren
tly receiving the most money and interest worldwide. These are climate change mitigation, watershed services and biodiversity conservation, and demand for these services in particular is predicted to continue to grow as time goes on. One seminal 1997 Nature magazine article estimated the annual value of global ecological benefits at $33 trillion, a number nearly twice the gross global product at the time. In 2014, the author of this 1997 research (Robert Costanza) and a qualified group of co-authors re-took this assessment – using only a slightly modified methodology but with more detailed 2011 data – and increased the aggregate global ecosystem services provisioning estimate to between $125–145 trillion a year. The same research project also estimated between $4.3 to 20.2 trillion a year of losses to ecosystem services, due to land use change.
This study examines the institutional design and actual performance, of payments for ecosystem services (PES) in Vietnam.
Taking Payments for Forest Environmental Services Program (PFES Program) implementation in Da Bac district, Hoa Binh province as a case study, it brings to light how PES program design and implementation contributed to the central government’s objectives to:
(1) involve stakeholders in forest management;
(2) reduce the government’s budget burden for forest protection;
and (3) maintain political control over forest resources.
In Vietnam, the PFES Program is implemented in a top-down manner. Participating households act as government-induced forest guards rather than forest owners. Incomplete design at the central-level results in poorer performance at lower levels and, the lack of strategic management makes it difficult to know whether the program has actually improved ecosystem services and forest management.
While the PFES Program complements other institutions at the national- and local-levels, some institutional incompatibilities exist in terms of customary practices. It is unlikely, however, that these will develop into an institutional conflict.
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Description: Ecosystem Services Volume 22, 1 December 2016, Pages 83-93
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