The implementation costs of forest conservation policies in Brazil

Tropical forest conservation is considered a low-cost option for climate change mitigation. But mitigation cost assessments have featured opportunity costs, neglecting policy implementation costs. Here we use official data to identify the Brazilian federal government’s operational and institutional budgets related to forest conservation policies implemented from 2000 to 2014. We distinguish the allocated and executed budgets of these policies, and provide scenario-based estimates of their cost-effectiveness. On average, Brazil spent US$ 1 billion/year on forest conservation policies at the federal level. Brazil’s substantial reduction in annual forest loss after 2004 was accompanied by a higher operational budget execution of disincentive-based policy instruments, and an absolute increase in both allocated and executed institutional budgets. The post-2004 successful mitigation effort represented additional implementation costs to the Brazilian federal government of US$ 308–923/ha of avoided deforestation, or US$ 0.87–2.60/tCO2 of avoided emissions. Factoring in also approximate municipal and state expenditures, these costs increase to US$ 385–1153/ha or US$ 1.09–3.25/tCO2. We conclude that implementations costs are non-trivial in size, including compared to estimates of land users’ opportunity costs. This has important implications for REDD + policy design, in the sense that implementation costs need to be adequately considered.

The full article can be found at this link: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800915301270

Defining PES: a long expected revisit

The most influential article written on PES has got a long awaited follow up by its author. Sven Wunder’s 2005 “Payments for environmental services: some nuts and bolts” has proposed a definition of PES that has since then been embraced and contested throughout the PES academic community. In the last 10 years, a number of works have tried to seek their own definition of PES, several times taking Wunder’s definition as a starting point for the discussion.

In the new article, before proposing a new definition, Wunder provides a very interesting discussion on the usefulness of definitions and on what one should want from a definition of PES. Especially interesting are his points about how a definition should be a tool for explaining phenomena, instead of a description of the issue in hand, and why a PES definition should single out PES in relation to other types of policies.

The new definition replaces “buyers” for “service users” dissipating an “an inadequate market association”, which has brought some conceptual confusion and practical distrust of PES in many circles. It also replaces “ES provision (or land use proxy)” for “Agreed rules of natural resource management” and scrapes the idea of a “well defined ES” due to technical and cost challenges of ‘well-defining’ an ES. Finally, it adds the idea of “offsite services”, which “deliberately links PES to the […] subset of environmental externalities, which the resource-use rules aim to address”.

The very worth reading can be found at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800914002961