Bridging the gap between Payments for Environmental Services and Conditional Cash Transfers in the Lacandona Rainforest, Mexico

Payments for Environmental Services (PES) have emerged since the 90s as star environmental conservation policies across the developing world, particularly in forest settings in Latin America. The alleged potential for achieving win-win outcomes, ie simultaneous livelihood and environmental improvements, has contributed to the popularity of PES in the context of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). The rising implementation of PES has sparked multiple scholarly debates, ranging from discussions on philosophical dimensions, for instance over the ethical dilemmas raised by paying to save nature, to more empirically grounded discussions over the performance of PES in practice.

In line with the latter debates, this thesis presents an empirical exploration into the topic of payments and their scope for achieving socioenvironmental goals in the municipality of Marqués de Comillas, State of Chiapas, México. Drawing together multiple strands of academic scholarship, particularly Ecological Economics, Political Ecology, New Institutional Economics and Behavioural Economics, the chapters in this thesis explore how payments are negotiated and spent among households and communities, and how PES interact with other rural development programmes, particularly Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT). The chapters presented in this thesis shed light on the series of unintended socioenvironmental effects of PES occurring at different scales in time and space as well the politicisation of payments by various actors pursuing diverse and conflicting goals. Taken together, these findings suggest the need for advancing more contextual and integrated approaches to policy which explicitly recognize the complexities and trade-offs appearing at the interface between conservation and development.

Santiago Izquierdo Tort
Research Student