As programs with payments for ecosystem services (PES) have become more numerous, raising the need for and also the opportunity for rigorous evidence on their contributions, we examine shifts within Costa Rica’s Pagos por Servicios Ambientales (PSA) program. The PSA was heralded from its initiation, despite demonstrations of low early impacts. We study shifts in impact over time across early periods and whether further adjustments could raise contributions. Looking over time, we find that PSA contracts signed for the 2000–2005 period had higher impacts than contracts for the program’s initial time period, 1997–1999 found in previous research. Looking over space, we find that PSA payments have higher impacts for lower slopes and lower market distances. Linking these results, the rise in impact for 2000–2005 occurred alongside a shift in the targeting of PSA, which was along ecological dimensions (limiting effects of owners offering unprofitable lands). Yet the spatial variations in impacts we document suggest that explicitly targeting impact offers the potential to further raise PES impacts in Costa Rica, as well as in other nations.
Payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs are now high in number, if not always in impact. When groups of users pay groups of service providers, establishing PES involves collective action. We study the creation of collective PES institutions, and their continuation, as group coordination. We use framed lab-in-field experiments with hydroservices users and providers within watersheds participating in Mexico’s Matching Funds program in Veracruz, Yucatan and Quintana Roo states. We explore the coordination of contributions between downstream users and upstream providers, plus effects of different types of sanctions that can affect expectations for both users and providers. Both information alone and sanctions raise contributions overall, although outcomes varied by site in line with our rankings of ‘watershed trust’. For instance, monetary sanctions raise contributions in the watershed we ranked high in trust, yet initially lowered them for the lowest-trust watershed. This suggests that upstream-downstream social capital will be central to new collective local PES, while our overall trends suggest social capital can be raised by successful coordination over time.
A growing set of policies involve transfers conditioned upon socially desired actions, such as attending school or conserving forest. However, given a desire to maximize the impact of limited funds by avoiding transfers that do not change behavior, typically some potential recipients are excluded on the basis of their characteristics, their actions or at random. This paper uses a laboratory experiment to study the behavior of individuals excluded on different bases from a new incentive that encourages real monetary donations to a public environmental conservation program. We show that the donations from the individuals who were excluded based on prior high contributions fell significantly. Yet the rationale used for exclusion mattered, in that none of the other selection criteria used as the basis for exclusion resulted in negative effects on contributions.
When designing schemes such as conditional cash transfers or payments for ecosystem services, the choice of whom to select and whom to exclude is critical. We incentivize and measure actual contributions to an environmental public good to ascertain whether being excluded from a rebate can affect contributions and, if so, whether the rationale for exclusion inﬂuences such effects. Treatments, i.e., three rules that determine who is selected and excluded, are randomly assigned. Two of the rules base exclusion on subjects’ initial contributions. The third is based upon location and the rationales are always explained. The rule that targets the rebate to low initial contributors, who have more potential to raise contributions, is the only rule that raised contributions by those selected. Yet by design, that same rule excludes the subjects who contributed the most initially. They respond by reducing their contributions even though their income and prices are unchanged.
We estimate the effects on deforestation that have resulted from policy interactions between parks and payments and between park buffers and payments in Costa Rica between 2000 and 2005. We show that the characteristics of the areas where protected and unprotected lands are located differ significantly. Additionally, we find that land characteristics of each of the policies and of the places where they interact also differ significantly. To adequately estimate the effects of the policies and their interactions, we use matching methods. Matching is implemented not only to define adequate control groups, as in previous research, but also to define those groups of locations under the influence of policies that are comparable to each other. We find that it is more effective to locate parks and payments away from each other, rather than in the same location or near each other. The high levels of enforcement inside both parks and lands with payments, and the presence of conservation spillovers that reduce deforestation near parks, significantly reduce the potential impact of combining these two policies.
We offer a nationwide analysis of the initial years of Costa Rica’s PSA program, which pioneered environmental-services payments and inspired similar initiatives. Our estimates of this program’s impact on deforestation, between 1997 and 2000, range from zero to one-fifth of 1% per year (i.e., deforestation is avoided on, at most, 2 out of every 1,000 enrolled hectares). The main explanation for such a low impact is an already low national deforestation rate. We also consider the effect of enrollment. Predicted deforestation on enrolled versus nonenrolled hectares, and matching analyses suggest an enrollment bias toward lower clearing threat. Enrolling land facing higher threat could raise payments’ impact on deforestation.