Can payments for ecosystem services contribute tosustainable development in the Brazilian Amazon?
Seehusen, Susan E.
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The Brazilian Amazon supplies the world with several forests ecosystem services, many of which are essential to sustain human life on earth. Nevertheless, the Amazon is threatened by deforestation and degradation implying in reductions on the provision of these. According to economic theory, as ecosystem services are positive externalities and public goods, agents do not take into consideration the costs and benefits of their consumption and production of ecosystem services into their economic decisions. To address this problem payment for ecosystem services – PES – emerged, aiming to provide a source of income to the poor people living in forest areas, stimulating them not to deforest, and making agents who are indebted with the nature pay for their overconsumption of ecosystem services. There is still controversy about possible impacts of the instrument. This article accesses the potentials of PES to contribute to sustainable development in the Brazilian Amazon using the three goals related to sustainable development proposed by the ecological economics theory: efficient allocation, fair distribution, and sustainable scale. The study shows that PES as a pure market approach is unlikely to solve neither the scale nor the distribution problems. Therefore, for PES to achieve sustainable development, markets for ecosystem services should first be constrained by a maximum sustainable scale. Then, measures should ensure fair distribution in second place. Only after these questions have been tackled, it is desirable that agents interact in the ecosystem services markets to lead to an efficient allocation of resources.
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