Preserving Ecosystems by valorising its services
The degradation of habitats, the loss of biodiversity and the consequent deterioration in ecosystem services witnessed over the past 60 years ultimately reflect a historic failure to properly value the benefits we derive from nature. The imbalance, created by the valuation of some ecosystem services, such as food and timber, while others, like water protection and carbon sequestration that are equally vital to our continued well-being, have no financial value, which has led to a focus on short-term financial gains and overexploitation of many natural assets. However, in recent years significant advances have been made in our understanding of and capacity to communicate the benefits that ecosystem services provide for human well-being and to establish the values that people place on these services. Payments for Environmental Services (PES) confront the ‘market failure’ problem of ecosystem services with the potential to meet the objectives under all three Rio Conventions and the Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, the growing interest in PES is driven in part by the general failure of ‘command and control’ approaches and integrated conservation and development projects.
GFA concept and services
GFA has engaged in pioneering the development and implementation of PES schemes. Building on the working definition of PES as a voluntary, conditional transaction between at least one seller and one buyer over a well-defined environmental service, GFA provides services in four PES types (see graphic): Carbon sequenstration and storage, biodiversity protection, watershed protection, landscape beauty. Most of the PES projects supported by GFA have been designed to support conservation efforts in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In accordance with the nature of GFA’s main area of intervention, we have taken a practical approach to PES and mainly serve the governments of member countries with the efficient management of PES projects, while at the same time exploring mechanisms for the private and public sectors to invest in conservation and sustainable development. GFA’s range of services includes the implementation of studies, as well as conceptual, strategic, and technical advice in:
- building the human and institutional capacity to develop and implement PES schemes,
- economic valuation of ecosystem services,
- development and implementation of pilot PES schemes in all four PES types,
- policy development and implementation to integrate and increase the relevance of PES in policy making,
- design and establishment of sustainable financing mechanisms for biodiversity, water and carbon users (Conservation Trust Funds, REDD+, etc.),
- mainstreaming PES schemes into land-use planning and management tools,
- forest management to community based enterprises,
- design and implementation of awareness raising campaigns and training. programs on PES.