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Generating New PES Institutions and Increased Impacts in Mexico: a framed field experiment on coordination and sanctions in Matching Funds sites

Alexander Pfaff, Luz Rodriguez, Elizabeth Shapiro
Draft working paper, Duke University (part of a project supported by The Tinker Foundation).

PDF link icon While states pay landowners in the big payment-for-ecosystem-services (PES) programs, PES can be locally organized. Downstream actors, e.g., may offer incentives to upstream. Even − or especially? − with local organization, though, there may be negative reactions to the increased monitoring and sanctioning of behavior required to increase PES impact. Mexico’s forest agency (CONAFOR) has had limited average impacts per PES contract in its direct state payments but also, since 2008, a novel policy to help create new local PES. The Fondos Concurrentes (Matching Funds) program solicits applications − initiated by varied partners − that must include agreement between upstream and downstream groups. We consider the creation of local PES programs, involving coordination by those groups to establish a new institution, and effects of permitting sanctions on upstream behaviors. We use PES framing (services go downstream, payment up) of the contributions in a new assurance game that, in real time, links the groups − each of which confronts free riding. After our field pilot, we recruited 240 downstream and 240 upstream Fondos participants from Xalapa (Veracruz State), Merida (Yucatan State) or Cancun (Quintana Roo State). Initial trust-game behaviors align with participant perceptions and predict baseline giving in assurance (which is significant, despite a zero equilibrium, perhaps due to our sample). For upstream providers, i.e., those who get sanctioned, the threat and the use of sanctions increase contributions. Any ‘motivation crowding’ is not dominant during these sanctions. Downstream users contribute less when offered the option to sanction − as if that option signals an uncooperative upstream − then contributions rise in line with complementarity.

Behavioral Spillovers from Targeted Incentives: losses from excluded individuals can counter gains from those selected

Francisco Alpizar, Anna Norden, Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino
Duke Environmental & Energy Economics Working Paper Series

PDF link iconIncentives conditioned on socially desired acts such as donating blood, departing conflict or mitigating climate change have increased in popularity. Many incentives are targeted, excluding some of the potential participants based upon characteristics or prior actions. We hypothesize that pro-sociality is reduced by exclusion, in of itself (i.e., fixing prices and income), and that the rationale for exclusion influences such ‘behavioral spillovers’. To test this, we use a laboratory experiment to study the effects of a subsidy to donations when participants are fully informed about why they are selected, or not, for the subsidy. We study the effects of introducing different selection rules upon changes in donations. Selecting for the subsidy those who initially acted less pro-social (i.e., gave little to start) increased donations, while random subsidies and rewarding greater pro-sociality did not. Yet a selection rule which targets lower prior pro-sociality also intentionally excludes the people who donated more initially, and only that rule reduced donations by the excluded. This shows a tradeoff between losses from excluded participants and gains from selected.


Unintended Effects of Targeting an Environmental Rebate

Francisco Alpizar, Anna Norden, Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino
Environmental and Resource Economics (accepted)

PDF link iconWhen 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.

Assessing the impact of institutional design of Payments for Environmental Services: the Costa Rican experience

Juan Robalino, Alexander Pfaff, Laura Villalobos
B. Rapidel, F. DeClerk, J. LeCoq and J. Beer Eds. “Ecosystem services from Agriculture and Agroforestry: Measurement and Payment”. Chapter 14. Earthscan Press.

PDF link iconin Costa Rica. The first years of implementation set the basis for what the programme has become. Important changes have been made since the beginning, such as the institution in charge of implementing the programme, parcels selection criteria, and new offices that were opened in different areas of the country with the objective of reducing application costs. Using 2003 as the starting point of when these changes took place, we discuss if they had a programme efficiency effect on reducing deforestation. We focus on forest conservation contracts because it is the most important category of the programme in terms of budget and amount of land enrolled. We use matching techniques, geographic information systems (GIS), characterize the areas where payments were implemented in each of the time periods using a long list of variables, and look for similar areas that did not receive payments. We find that, as other studies have found for this period (Robalino et al, 2008; Arriagada, 2008), the impacts are low but significant. While it seems that, overall, institutional changes have not had a significant effect on impact, we also look at the impacts of forest conservation contracts per office. We find that those offices located in areas with high deforestation tend to have higher impacts.


Costa Rica’s Payment for Environmental Services Program: Intention, Implementation, and Impact

G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa, Alexander Pfaff, Juan Robalino, Judson Boomhower
Conservation Biology 2007 volume 21, number 5, 1165–1173

PDF link iconWe evaluated the intention, implementation, and impact of Costa Rica’s program of payments for environmental services (PSA), which was established in the late 1990s. Payments are given to private landowners who own land in forest areas in recognition of the ecosystem services their land provides. To characterize the distribution of PSA in Costa Rica, we combined remote sensing with geographic information system databases and then used econometrics to explore the impacts of payments on deforestation. Payments were distributed broadly across ecological and socioeconomic gradients, but the 1997–2000 deforestation rate was not significantly lower in areas that received payments. Other successful Costa Rican conservation policies, including those prior to the PSA program, may explain the current reduction in deforestation rates. The PSA program is a major advance in the global institutionalization of ecosystem investments because few, if any, other countries have such a conservation history and because much can be learned from Costa Rica’s experiences.


Will buying tropical forest carbon benefit the poor? evidence from Costa Rica

Alexander Pfaff, Suzi Kerr, Leslie Lipper, Romina Cavatassi, Benjamin Davis, Joanna Hendy, G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa
Land Use Policy 24 (2007) 600–610

PDF link iconWe review claims linking both payments for carbon and poverty to deforestation. We examine these effects empirically for Costa Rica during the late 20th century using an econometric approach that addresses the irreversibilities in deforestation. We find significant effects of the relative returns to forest on deforestation rates. Thus, carbon payments would induce  conservation and also carbon sequestration, and if land users were poor could conserve forest while addressing rural poverty. We note that the poor appear to be marginalized in the sense of living where land profitability is lower. Those areas also have more forest. We find that poorer areas may have a higher supply response to payments, but even without this effect poor areas might be included and benefit more due to higher (per capita) forest area. They might be included less due to transactions costs, though. Unless the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol is modified in its implementation to allow credits from avoided  deforestation, such benefits are likely to be limited.


Payments for Ecosystem Services: why precision and targeting matter

Francisco Alpizar, Allen Blackman, Alexander Pfaff
Resources 2007 volume 165:20-22

PDF link iconEven a perfect measure of the ecosystem services provided by each parcel enrolled in a PES program would be insufficient to measure the overall effectiveness of the program. The simple reason is that if a PES program does not lead to an increase in the provision of ecosystem services compared to what would have happened in the absence of the program—that is, the baseline or “counterfactual”—then it has not accomplished anything. Imagine a PES program focused on forest conservation that makes payments to managers of ecologically rich forest land, who have no incentive to clear the land because it is illsuited for logging, agriculture, or urbanization. Payments to these managers would have little impact on deforestation because the risk of clearing was minimal to begin with. In contrast, payments to managers who have incentives to clear their land would be much more likely to have an impact.


The Dynamics of Deforestation and the Supply of Carbon Sequestration: Illustrative Results from Costa Rica

Suzi Kerr, Alexander Pfaff, G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa
Central America Project, Environment: Conservation and Competitiveness. HIID 2001. Chapter 15.

PDF link iconIn this chapter we consider potential gains derived from preventing deforestation, drawing heavily from information from Chapter 14. It uses the same economic model and econometric technique and the same land use/land cover data. It also uses the carbon stock estimates presented there. The key difference is that, instead of using proxies for land-use returns such as ecological characteristics related to higher productivity, we attempt to directly estimate dollar-valued returns. We use these as an independent variable to explain and predict deforestation patterns. This allows us to simulate the potential supply of carbon sequestration in response to dollar-valued returns for certified emissions reductions. Payments for CERs will reduce deforestation by lowering the net return from forest clearing. The loss of the reward for carbon sequestration will partially offset the positive return from agricultural uses. To estimate the effect of such payments on deforestation, and hence CER supply, we need to estimate the response of deforestation to changes in returns to land use. An increase in agricultural returns is empirically equivalent to a reduction in carbon CER payments. Thus, we construct a variable that estimates the potential return of a plot of land if it is cleared. We construct a variable that varies across space (different crop suitability and yields) and time (changes in export prices, technology, and labor costs). We then use this variable in our econometric estimation. The results are used to calculate a supply curve of CERs. These results are illustrative only. They are produced as part of an ongoing effort at estimation (Kerr, Pfaff, Hughes et al. 2000) and are used to show some underlying features of a dynamic supply curve.


How Can Carbon Sequestration in Tropical Forests Be Rewarded? Evidence from Case Of Costa Rica

Suzi Kerr, Alexander Pfaff, G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa, Marco Boscolo
Central America Project, Environment: Conservation and Competitiveness. HIID 2001. Chapter 14.

PDF link iconThe chapter is structured as follows. First, below, we begin this analysis of the process influencing land changes with a dynamic model of land-use choices. Such models have often been suggested, but crucial features have often been neglected in application. This model generates testable hypotheses regarding factors underlying patterns of land-use changes in tropical areas. The next section describes the data collected for this project and discusses the quality of land-use data. It also outlines the variables used to test the implications of the model. Following that, we present our results and then discuss the linkage from land-use changes to implied carbon sequestration, and the quality of information currently available on carbon sequestration. Finally, we present some conclusions and lessons learned.


The Kyoto Protocol & Payments for Tropical Forest: An Interdisciplinary Method for Estimating Carbon-Offset Supply and Increasing the Feasibility of a Carbon Market under the CDM

Alexander Pfaff, Suzi Kerr, R. Flint Hughes, Shuguang Liu, G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa, David Schimel, Joseph Tosi, Vicente Watson
Ecological Economics 35 (2000) 203–221

PDF link iconProtecting tropical forests under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) could reduce the cost of emissions limitations set in Kyoto. However, while society must soon decide whether or not to use tropical forest-based offsets, evidence regarding tropical carbon sinks is sparse. This paper presents a general method for constructing an integrated model (based on detailed historical, remote sensing and field data) that can produce land-use and carbon baselines, predict carbon sequestration supply to a carbon-offsets market and also help to evaluate optimal market rules. Creating such integrated models requires close collaboration between social and natural scientists. Our project combines varied disciplinary expertise (in economics, ecology and geography) with local knowledge in order to create high-quality, empirically grounded, integrated models for Costa Rica.