One of the greatest problems with our world today that has an extreme impact on the climate is deforestation. So what alternatives are there for us to look at if we can’t chop down trees to make timber and more room for us to grow crops? One effective alternative that can help is known as the “Payment for Ecosystem Services” or PES.
Costa Rica was the first country that tested this alternative method. It was widely accepted on a national level. Ever since the success of PES was proven, other countries, such as Mexico, China, Bolivia, and a variety of other nations have begun to do the same thing. So what is PES exactly?
To understand PES, you need to get to the root (yep, tree pun) of the issue. Most deforestation that the world experiences happens in developing countries. So what PES does is allows wealthier countries or international funders such as the World Bank, to pay people who reside in poor countries to leave their forests intact. This creates an incentive that encourages people to maintain their forests so that they can earn some extra money as well as letting the surrounding tree population to continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The longer trees exist, the more carbon-dioxide can be absorbed annually, which makes this alternative method the most cost effective way of maintaining forests as well as paying developuing countries the necessary amount of money for them to continue living a healthy and comfortable lifestyle.
There are a lot of valid questions that go into this alternative route: Who receives the money? Where does the money go? How are locals paid? Does this method really work? How cost-effective is it?
In 2011, Seema Jayachandran and some of her colleagues had conducted a study in western Uganda where the forest is home to gorillas as well as chimpanzees including it being the third highest deforestation rated place on earth. Choosing 121 random villages and offering the PES service to see which communities were willing to try the program.
This study is one of the first randomized trials of the approach and the results they gathered were reassuring. Over the course of two years, the PES method was able to halve the amount of deforestation in the villages that chose to participate compared to the ones that decided against the program.
The PES program was also able to pay the villages enough for all enrollees, who had increased their annual income by $56 a year. This is a 10 to 20 percent increase! “It’s enough money that there are financial pressures to not cut the forest, but cheap enough that wealthy countries can pay for it,” states Jayachandran.
The PES method can save the world money as well as saving it’s natural habitats. As we continue into the future, the world must consider alternative routes such as these in order for us to make ends meet not only with ourselves but with the planet.