Mainstreaming Payments for ecosystem services is not an objective in itself
PES is a relatively new concept in the conservation community. What do you think are its benefits compared to other approaches and do you think it has a future as a mainstream conservation instrument?
I do not regard mainstreaming PES as an objective in itself. What I realised through my work is the need to promote clearly what distinguishes PES from other financial mechanisms for conservation; to avoid using the term PES as a general label for financial instruments that are associated with maintenance of ecosystem services, and to look at PES as one among other possible solutions that can work in a given situation of ecosystem degradation or threat from human activity. Still, compared to other instruments, what I consider positive about PES is, first, the definition of a scientifically based business case capable of highlighting the dependency between human activity and the natural capital; and second, its voluntary character indicating a relationship of “appropriateness” between people (technically called “buyers” and “sellers” of an ecosystem service) and nature.
The PES schemes developed in Romania under the PES project (in Maramureș and at the Ciocănești fish farm) have evolved a lot from the inception stage. How would you describe them now, in a nutshell, as we are approaching the final stage of the project?
Indeed, our team in Romania has done a lot. Considering that our study areas belong to or include protected areas, in general I can say that we have accumulated valuable experience and identified replicable models; they can help us develop what I call a portfolio of financing mechanisms (including PES) addressing the needs of both protected areas and responsible businesses, in the context of local community development, which is a priority in Romania.
Could you mention the biggest challenges that you have had to overcome along the way?
I will mention two main challenges, which are actually often encountered when designing PES schemes: availability of data and stakeholder engagement.
What positive impact do you expect the two schemes to have, either directly or indirectly?
I count on the creative and sound approach of protected area managers to assess, promote and maintain the values of such areas in relation to different categories of users. I also expect increased awareness of local stakeholders on their role with respect to nature conservation, as well as on the key role a protected area plays in the development of the local community.
Have you prepared or thought of a way to ensure the continuity of the schemes in the two Romanian pilot sites?
Yes. In Maramureș, we have stimulated the creation of a Local Partnership with the aim to develop the study area into an official ecotourism destination and the implementation of a finance mechanism for nature conservation is a key criterion to be met in order to obtain this status from the state authority in the tourism sector.
In Ciocănești, we are applying for existing funding opportunities with project ideas that integrate the undertaking of more responsible aquaculture practices within a wider approach of sustainable business development.