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Ecosystem Services: Heed Social Goals

2012, Science - número/volum 335(6069) - Pàgines 655-656 - DOI 10.1126/science.335.6069.655-c

Autors de l'ICTA:
Esteve Corbera Elizalde

Tots els autors:
Esteve Corbera, Unai Pascual

In their Policy Forum “Paying for ecosystem services—Promise and peril” (4 November 2011, p. 603), A. P. Kinzig et al. identify a series of conditions that would need to be satisfied for payments for ecosystem services (PES) to succeed. They also highlight the reasons that potential ecosystem service buyers feel uncertain about the system, potentially choking the demand for services. However, Kinzig et al. fail to account for the role of service providers and the factors that might spur or undermine their willingness to supply ecosystem services in exchange of payment. Growing evidence shows that non-economic factors are highly influential in shaping service providers' sustained participation in PES (1).

Kinzig et al. describe PES as an instrument that primarily pursues cost-effective conservation goals regardless of collateral social implications. Such decoupling is ethically untenable in a growing number of places where top-down PES schemes are quickly spreading without proper understanding of service providers' needs and the potential impacts of PES on their livelihoods. When parachuted into rural communities of the developing world without market power or political voice, PES—including payment related to clean development mechanisms and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)—can enhance existing inequalities in income, access to resources, and decision-making if pro-poor management measures are not considered (2, 3). On the ground, institutional complexities can easily lead to misrepresentation of the poor and “elite capture” (in which some benefit more from the services than others) (4).

Taking fairness and participation issues into account might be somewhat discomforting to some scientists and practitioners working on market-based instruments for conservation. Nonetheless, PES that separate conservation effectiveness from distributive and procedural impacts risk delegitimizing the tool. Furthermore, such an approach may be counterproductive for PES effectiveness, insofar as the joint provision of positive outcomes for conservation and livelihoods is more likely when users participate actively in transparent rule-making aspects of ecosystem governance (5, 6). In the actual global economic climate where markets are disproportionally burdening the poor, PES should thus not become a source of environmental and social injustice.

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