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Payments for Ecosystem Services in the Context of Adaptation to Climate Change

Isabel van de Sand, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)


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The concept of payments for ecosystem services (PES) has recently emerged as a promising tool for enhancing or safeguarding the provision of ecosystem services (ES). Although the concept has been extensively scrutinized in terms of its potential positive and negative impacts on the poor in developing countries, less attention has been paid to examining the role of PES in the context of adaptation to climate change. PES has some potential to contribute to adaptation to climate change, but there are also risks that it could undermine adaptation efforts. In order to maximize synergies and minimize trade-offs between PES and adaptation, it is important that the conceptual links between both are made explicit. The present article presents the main conceptual links between PES and adaptation to climate change and suggests ways of making PES pro-poor and pro-adaptation. Drawing upon the concepts of vulnerability, adaptive capacity, and socioecological systems, it is suggested that PES can potentially contribute to adaptation in three main ways: through enhancements in the provision of ecosystem services, by enhancing adaptive capacity in the way PES is designed and implemented, and by providing an incentive mechanism to adopt specific measures for adaptation to climate change. Reflecting on the lessons from the PES and poverty literature, the article suggests ways to make PES pro-poor and pro-adaptation and concludes with further research needs in this area.

Key words

adaptation; adaptive capacity; climate change; ecosystem services; payments for ecosystem services; payments for environmental services; vulnerability

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087