PES programs are happening around the world, and are employed on international, national, and local scales. Some countries that have PES programs include Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, UK, USA, Norway, Australia, and more.
A well-known example of an open-trading PES model is the international carbon market, established by the Kyoto Protocol. In this market, private entities or governments create supply by developing carbon projects which reduce emissions. The ‘buyers’ tend to be corporations or private individuals looking to offset their own carbon footprint. Forestry activities which sequester carbon by promoting forest establishment and growth are one mechanism for reducing emissions within these markets (UNEP, 2008; UNDP, 2022).
In the United States, an example is the Watershed Protection Program, which is funded by the New York City Department for Environmental Protection. This program aims to provide high quality drinking water for nine million water consumers in New York City, whose water comes from upstate watersheds such as the Catskills. Landowners in the Catskills are paid to implement various beneficial management practices which help maintain the health of the watershed (Isakson, 2001).
Farmland Advantage is the first PES program in BC. The program began as a community-led initiative in 2008 with the goal of implementing the PES program model in BC. Farmland Advantage is not a passive income stream for landowners or farmers. Funding under the program is conditional on the farmer or landowner taking action to improve ecological services on their land. Specifically, the program targets the increase of public goods that are otherwise under-delivered or not delivered at all. The program intends to mitigate compounding landscape problems such as flooding, loss of habitat and increased water filtration requirements.
Let’s look at how Farmland Advantage fits into those five PES criteria from before:
- Voluntary: Farmland Advantage is completely voluntary. After FLA completes mapping and site selection work, farmers are given a choice to participate in the program.
- Well-defined Ecosystem Services: Farmland Advantage uses a network of experts and specific site selection methodology to define and target ecosystem services. To learn more about Farmland Advantage’s methodology, please visit our approach page.
- A Buyer: The ‘buyers’ in the FLA program would be FLA and the program funders. The program also has an intermediary, the Investment Agriculture Foundation, which administrates the program.
- A Provider: Farmland Advantage’s ‘providers’ would be the farmers, ranchers, land-owners, and Indigenous groups the program partners with.
- Conditionality: Each year, Farmland Advantage advisors conduct site visits to determine whether the work has been maintained. Only after the audit are payments issued.
In conclusion, Farmland Advantage stands as a pioneer in the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) model in British Columbia. As the first of its kind in the region, Farmland Advantage sets a promising precedent for the application of PES programs in safeguarding and valuing the contributions of nature to society. Through the collective efforts of farmers, communities, and stakeholders, programs like Farmland Advantage pave the way for a sustainable and resilient future, where the protection of ecosystem services becomes an integral part of our societal fabric.