Importance of Natural Resources

Episode 1 – Payments For Ecosystem Services

My name is Jennifer Alex-Garcia and I am
a professor and head of the department of Applied Economics at Oregon State
University. I study a program of payments for ecosystem services. These kinds of
programs are sometimes called PES programs, and the one that I study is
located in Mexico. So the idea of a PES program is that you pay somebody to do
something environmentally friendly. So in the case of Mexico, people are paid to
conserve forests and it’s not just that they’re being paid for
the forest, they’re also being paid for the services that that forest provides
like carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, natural beauty. We find that
the payments for ecosystem services program in Mexico reduces deforestation
and supports people’s livelihoods and it’s most effective where the forest is
at highest threat. So if producers had the intention of actually cutting the
forest down, then this program could have a big impact. In order to assess whether
or not PES prevents deforestation, we use data that is based on satellite imagery.
So that we measure the vegetative cover using satellites and translating that
into measures of forest and then we compare the land that’s enrolled in the
program with land that applied to the program but wasn’t accepted; so you have
a sort of treatment and control group, and by making the comparison between
those two, we can measure whether or not the program actually prevented
deforestation. Land-use change accounts for about 11% of global carbon emissions
and preventing land-use change or deforestation is one of the lowest cost
ways that we have to address climate change.
It’s cheaper than changing polluting technology; it’s cheaper than
reforestation; it’s basically should be the first thing that we do.
Besides being low cost, it’s nice to preserve force for other reasons. So
forests provide carbon sequestration and that’s a great thing, but they also
provide other services like conserving biodiversity so we can extract future
technologies and preventing erosion and landslides that are big risk in a lot of
places. This program also fits in well to my larger goal, which is to look at
environmental policies that help conserve the environment while also
preserving people’s livelihoods. I think this is probably the most pressing issue
that we face in the world – how to reconcile economic growth with
environmental conservation and it’s something that we should all be
concerned about. It’s why I do all my work. I think that climate change can be
a discouraging issue to think about because it’s so big. Individual changes
can help combat climate change – things like walking to work and composting your
food can have an impact, but the most important thing that people can do is to
vote for politicians who are willing to put in place policies to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions. Without big policy changes, we can’t really address
the problem.

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