21, March, 2014

Learning from 20 Years of Payments for Ecosystem Services in Costa Rica

In 1996, the tiny country of Costa Rica took bold steps to initiate one of the first nationalised ‘payments for ecosystem services’ (PES) programmes. The programme has grown tremendously, as the first chapter of this paper will show. It has been the envy of many – as well as the target of often undue criticism, as is frequently the case for pioneers.

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Costa Rica’s Payments for Ecosystems Services (PES) programme has become something of an icon in the world of PES. Its hitches and successes provide a valuable source of information and inspiration for other countries interested in exploring ‘policymixes’ of economic and regulatory instruments to promote ecosystems conservation and regeneration. In this paper we explore how the governance of the PES programme has evolved over time, how the context in which it sits has changed, and how it prepares to face future challenges by incorporating new tools and strengthening its alliances with other institutions. We discuss the policies used by the programme to affect the way forests are managed and the reported outcomes on the ecosystem services they are expected to provide. Since PES is for society as much as the environment, we also look in detail at the impacts on those directly receiving PES, and what policies and personal characteristics may affect how PES funding seeps into rural economies. Also published in Spanish, this paper is aimed at local practitioners, international researchers and donors interested in the Costa Rican experience and the lessons that emerge from it. The success of the PES scheme in Costa Rica ultimately depends on its ability to guarantee the provision and protection of ecosystem services. This requires a greater application of technical and scientific knowledge, while balancing on the tightrope of a limited budget. A healthier ecosystem will benefit all of society; rich and poor, directly and indirectly. But the social and environmental objectives of the scheme must be targeted accurately, and renewed efforts are needed to guarantee that the programme delivers.

Authors: Ina Porras, David N Barton, Miriam Miranda, Adriana Chacón-Cascante
Orginal publication date: November 2013
Publisher: International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

Click here to view the complete document in English in PDF format 

Click here to view the complete document in Spanish in PDF format



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