Comparative Legal Frameworks for Payments for Ecosystem Services

  • Sarah Jackson

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    In recent decades, the concept of ecosystem services has deepened our appreciation of the myriad benefits provided by ecosystems, and the risks to human societies posed by ecosystem degradation. There is a growing realisation that problems traditionally considered to be outside the environmental policy arena are in truth strongly connected to the environment: ecosystems underlie issues spanning climate, energy, food, water, urban planning, human health, economic development, social justice, and national security. Payments for ecosystem services (PES) create positive financial incentives for the protection and restoration of ecosystems, and represent one way to better represent the value of ecosystem services across a range of sectors. PES schemes are gaining traction in climate mitigation and biodiversity protection strategies, and most of all in the water sector. PES is complementing traditional approaches to water management and helping to address deteriorating water quality, declining water flows, and flooding.

    This thesis takes a legal perspective, examining the role of legal frameworks in the design and administration of PES. It focuses on PES aimed at protecting freshwater ecosystem services, and considers how legal frameworks can incorporate PES into strategies for drinking water provision. It examines an emerging body of law relating directly to PES, and provides an opportunity to consider some of the leading examples of the ES concept being reflected in law. It distinguishes three broad categories of legal frameworks that establish, regulate or enable PES. A comparative methodology is applied to an analysis of case studies of legal frameworks for PES from: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, New York, England and Ontario. This analysis draws out conclusions about how the law relates to key policy issues around ES and PES, and different approaches to developing legal frameworks to guide PES, depending on different contexts and policy objectives.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorChris Spray (Supervisor) & Sarah Hendry (Supervisor)


    • Payments for Ecosystem Services
    • Law
    • Legal Frameworks
    • Ecosystem Services
    • Watershed incentives

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