Resources: Brief overview of the regulatory framework for mangrove PES in Vietnam

August 16, 2010
By admin
Resources: Brief overview of the regulatory framework for mangrove PES in Vietnam

Payments for ecosystem services (PES) present a promising opportunity for mangrove conservation that supports local people. Mangroves provide a host of valuable ecosystem services in coastal areas worldwide, including protection of coastal areas from storms, winds, and waves, habitat provision for fish and other aquatic life, carbon sequestration, and erosion control. Yet, regulation in these valuable ecosystems is often convoluted and may not favor conservation or accommodate the use of PES. This policy brief outlines the legal and regulatory frameworks for mangrove conservation and PES in Vietnam and illustrates the opportunities and challenges with information from Xuan Thuy National Park.

Download the PDF here: “REDD and Mangrove Forests in Vietnam: Legal Issues

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Resources: Can Marine Markets & Ocean Zoning Help Save the Seas?

June 19, 2010
By admin

The Katoomba Group’s Ecosystem Marketplace, the preminent on-line source of news, data, and analytics on markets and payments for ecosystem services is publishing a series of articles related to the Katoomba conference in Hanoi next week.

The latest article, titled “Can Marine Markets & Ocean Zoning Help Save the Seas?” is summarised below and available here.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill reminds us once again that the economy depends on ecology and one man’s cheap solution is often another’s cost.  This was a central theme of the Marine Ecosystem Services meeting in Palo Alto, and will be again at next week’s Katoomba Meeting in Hanoi.  Here we examine two powerful tools to help preserve the oceans by recognizing their true value.

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Fitting Payments for Ecosystem Services into the Legal Framework

June 16, 2010
By admin

The Katoomba Group’s Ecosystem Marketplace, the preminent on-line source of news, data, and analytics on markets and payments for ecosystem services is publishing a series of articles related to the Katoomba conference in Hanoi next week.

The latest article, titled “Fitting Payments for Ecosystem Services into the Legal Framework” is summarised below and available here.

Financiers, scientists, farmers, and policymakers from around the world are meeting at the 17th Katoomba Meeting next week in Hanoi to hash out ways of bringing the value of nature’s services into our economy.  Unfortunately, even as interest in payments for ecosystem services (PES) grows, laws are not evolving to accommodate them. Ecosystem Marketplace examines the challenge of implementing PES schemes in Southeast Asia.

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China: the Unappreciated Ecosystem Entrepreneur?

June 15, 2010
By admin

The Katoomba Group’s Ecosystem Marketplace, the preminent on-line source of news, data, and analytics on markets and payments for ecosystem services is publishing a series of articles related to the Katoomba conference in Hanoi next week.

The latest article, titled “China: the Unappreciated Ecosystem Entrepreneur?” is summarised below and available here.

We’ve all heard how China’s voracious economic growth is destroying its air, water, and forests – but few know of the country’s burgeoning market-based response, which aims to halt environmental degradation by incorporating the value of nature’s services into the production process.  EM parent Forest Trends has published an exhaustive inventory of these efforts.

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UN REDD FPIC workshop, 16th – 18th June in Hanoi, Vietnam

June 7, 2010
By admin

In the lead up to the Katoomba Conference in Vietnam the UN-REDD Programme is hosting an Asia/Pacific Regional Workshop on FPIC (the Free, Prior and Informed Consent standards laid out by the ILO for engagement with indigenous peoples) and Recourse Mechanisms in Hanoi, Vietnam from 16 – 18 June.  The workshop is being organized in collaboration with the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) as a follow up to the first UN-REDD Programme Asia/Pacific Regional Consultation with Indigenous Peoples that took place in Bangkok in October 2009.

The purpose of the workshop is to initiate a three-step process to develop guidelines on FPIC and recourse for the UN-REDD Programme.  The initial guidelines will be elaborated through a series of regional follow-up dialogues (in Latin America and Africa) and via a public comment and input process. The resulting guidelines will be added as an annex to the UN-REDD Programme Operational Guidance on the Engagement of Indigenous Peoples and other Forest Dependent Communities.

For more information, please contact:
Nina Kantcheva
Consultant, Stakeholder Engagement
304 E. 45th street, FF 992, New York, NY 10017
e-mail: nina(dot)kantcheva(at)undp(dot)org
tel: + 1 917 892 6041

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BBOP and Biodiversity Offsets in Vietnam

June 4, 2010
By admin

The following article originally appeared on the Ecosystem Marketplace website.

3 June 2010 | On April 22, 2010, the Government of Vietnam, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MONRE) held an initial workshop with the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP), a program of Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends, to discuss the potential for biodiversity offsets to help Vietnam achieve its conservation and development goals.  Following this initial gathering, the government of Vietnam requested BBOP’s assistance as it further develops policies on biodiversity compensation.  BBOP and MARD have now initiated discussions on the objectives and activities of this collaboration, and are seeking donor support.

Given that biodiversity offsets are still a novel approach in many parts of the world, our Insight Series wanted to delve a bit deeper into BBOP’s approach, Vietnam’s developing biodiversity compensation framework, and what this new partnership hopes to achieve in the next two years

What is a biodiversity offset?

A biodiversity offset is a way to demonstrate that a development (such as a mine or forest plantation) can be implemented in a manner that results in no net loss or a net gain of biodiversity.  BBOP defines biodiversity offsets as “the measurable conservation outcomes of actions designed to compensate for significant residual adverse biodiversity impacts arising from project development after appropriate prevention and mitigation measures have been taken. The goal of biodiversity offsets is to achieve no net loss and preferably a net gain of biodiversity on the ground with respect to species composition, habitat structure, ecosystem function and people’s use and cultural values associated with biodiversity”.

More than 30 countries have laws requiring biodiversity offsets, many others require some form of compensatory conservation, and others still are now exploring policy frameworks for biodiversity offsets.  This is because biodiversity offsets offer a way to achieve better conservation outcomes than typically result from project planning, as developers using a biodiversity offset plan for ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity.  This goes beyond traditional mitigation of impacts, and encourages business to take responsibility for its impacts.  Biodiversity offsets thus result in new and additional investments in conservation outcomes by the private sector, which can help governments achieve the conservation targets they have adopted in national biodiversity strategies and action plans.

Developers are often unsure what is expected of them by government in terms of avoiding, minimizing and ultimately compensating for their impacts on biodiversity.  Clear guidance by government through biodiversity offset policy is welcome as it offers companies legal certainty, efficiency and cost savings in the planning process, and flexibility in how to achieve agreed conservation goals.

What is BBOP?

The Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program is an international partnership of over 50 different company, financial, government, and civil society representatives, who are members of its Advisory Group.  BBOP was established by Forest Trends, an environmental non-profit organization that works globally to support market-based approaches to conservation.  Together, the BBOP members aim to test and develop best practice on biodiversity offsets and conservation banking worldwide.

BBOP’s work is based on real experiences of biodiversity offset design in pilot projects with companies and involves governments which are leaders in the field of biodiversity offsets, often with many years of experience in designing and administering biodiversity offset systems at the national or state level.

One of BBOP’s priorities is to provide technical support and policy advice on biodiversity offsets, landscape-level and regional planning to governments, through general reports and specific advice. BBOP brings experience from around the world to governments which are preparing or reviewing policy related to biodiversity offsets.  This experience comes from different sectors in society, and may include other governments that have developed and administered offset systems, companies that have developed voluntary biodiversity offsets and had experience of complying with offset regulations, financial institutions that include requirements for offsets in their loan conditions, and NGOs that have experience of designing offsets and analyzing offset policies around the world.   BBOP does not speak on behalf of its various constituent members, but gathers and synthesizes lessons from their experiences.

In the absence of a policy requirement for no net loss, the companies BBOP works with are those that will gain the most from undertaking biodiversity offsets.  These are generally companies which have a footprint on biodiversity that represents a business risk for them.  For instance, infrastructure projects, mining, oil and gas, hydropower, wind power, road projects, railways, housing development, tourism and some forms of agriculture.  These companies often find benefits to working with BBOP as governments, financial institutions, and civil society increasingly expect developers to take full responsibility for their biodiversity impacts.  In many cases, biodiversity offsets offer companies a way to demonstrate no net loss of biodiversity, improve outcomes for local communities, and reduce operational and project development risks.
Vietnam’s Biodiversity Law
In Vietnam, a legal framework on biodiversity offsets already exists. Article 75 of the recent Biodiversity Law states that “organizations or individuals that infringe upon conservation areas or biodiversity conservation facilities… shall pay damages in accordance with law”, and that “damage caused to biodiversity due to environmental pollution or degradation shall be compensated in accordance with law”.  In addition, MONRE has just submitted for approval to the Prime Minister a draft national decree on compensation for environmental damages. These pieces of legislation will serve as a foundational framework upon which biodiversity offset policy can be developed in Vietnam.

During the workshop held with MARD and MONRE on April 22, participants agreed that the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program approach can be adopted in Vietnam.
The Next Steps
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in the name of the Directorate of Forestry has stated that biodiversity offsets are potentially very useful for Vietnam and requested the technical support of BBOP, which gratefully accepted this opportunity to assist Vietnam balance its development and conservation objectives.  Conclusions from the workshop included the following points:

The Government of Vietnam is interested to learn more from international experiences and the existing knowledge developed by projects within Vietnam to establish suitable policies and support programs that work for government, companies and civil society.
BBOP will assist MARD develop one or more pilot projects in special use forest areas.
BBOP will run a regional or sub-regional training on biodiversity offsets, in order to build Vietnamese capacity in this field of expertise.
BBOP will provide policy and research support to help improve and develop existing Vietnamese policies and supporting legislative arrangements, such as incorporating biodiversity offsets into the Environmental Impact Assessment framework, the Strategic Environmental Assessment, the Biodiversity Law, and/or the Compensation for Environmental Damages framework.

Over the next several months, MARD and BBOP expect to develop a Memorandum of Understanding that will capture shared expectations, roles and responsibilities for this work.  They will develop a workplan for the following two year period that will define activities and objectives, as well as the resources needed to achieve them.

Patrick Maguire is program manager for the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program.  He can be reached at pmaguire (at)

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Resource: Legal Portal

May 14, 2010
By admin

At the global, regional, and local levels, PES law and policy is evolving rapidly, creating a moving target for understanding these complex issues. The Resources Portal makes current information on PES law and policy available in one place, by collecting and linking to a selection of relevant publications. The publications are grouped into PES law and policy publications and PES contract publications, and are listed in reverse chronological order within each group. The Portal is updated regularly as new materials become available.

Click here to visit the Legal Portal

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Insight Series: Asian Governments Explore Ecosystem Markets for Environmental Protection

May 12, 2010
By admin

By Steve Zwick

Cash-strapped governments across Southeast Asia are experimenting with market-based schemes to preserve nature by recognizing its economic value. Such schemes have proven effective in other parts of the world, and here’s a look at the reasoning behind them.

In his younger days, Vietnamese farmer Hoang Van Thang made a name for himself hunting birds. Now in his 60s, he’s protecting the birds and their habitat.

“We need to preserve wildlife for the next generation,” he told the author of a report on the web site of the Hanoi National University of Education’s Mangrove Ecosystem Research Centre (

So he and roughly 30 other volunteers spend much of their time patrolling small patches of mangrove forest near his village in Nam Dinh Province, about 150 kilometers south of Hanoi, removing illegal snares and keeping an eye out for tree-cutters. Their actions seem to be having an impact.

“Our team hasn’t seen any cases of bird snaring for a long time,” he says. “And local people don’t cut down the mangroves anymore.”

But the areas they patrol are just a tiny part of a 7100-hectare natural park, the bulk of which is manned by an understaffed team of park rangers. Funding for those rangers and the larger scheme within which they operate comes from charitable donations and taxes.

These funds pale in comparison to the needs of farmers, ranchers, and crabbers – all of whom inadvertently put tremendous stress on the mangrove forests, which have never really recovered from toxins unleashed during the Vietnam War.

To take the pressure off mangroves and other ecosystems, the government of Vietnam is exploring financing schemes that replace the economic incentive to destroy mangroves with an economic incentive to preserve them. These schemes begin by recognizing that mangroves aren’t just pretty places for nature lovers – they are part of a critical ecosystem that feeds the local economy.
Short-Term Gain; Long-Term Loss
Nature and commerce have been at odds for centuries, with nature clearly getting the worst of it – especially in the developed world. The dynamic has accelerated in the last half-century, and in the developing world as well, where subsistence farmers often must choose between feeding their families and preserving fragile ecosystems.

But the apparent conflict between commerce and nature is a false one, because in the long run commerce is not opposed to nature. In fact, commerce depends on nature, because everything we buy, sell, eat, and produce is ultimately derived from nature – and not always in the most obvious way. Mangroves, for example, provide shelter for vulnerable fish and breeding ground for shrimp. They also shield the coast from slow erosion and sudden storms; they extract impurities from water and pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, depositing it in the ocean floor – thus helping to reduce the greenhouse effect and slow climate change.

Thang’s actions, therefore, aren’t just good for birds. They’re good for coastal farmers, offshore fishermen, the tourism industry – and anyone threatened by climate change.

Payments for Ecosystem Services

Each of these groups has a vested interest in the health of the mangroves that Thang is voluntarily protecting. They should, in theory, be the ones paying the most to guard the mangroves that deliver the so-called “ecosystem services” upon which their livelihoods depend.

“Payments for Ecosystem Services” (PES) schemes begin with the premise that ecosystems are worth more alive than dead, but they work in several different ways.

Some begin by identifying the economic value of the services provided by living ecosystems and then persuading those who benefit the most to pay for its upkeep.

Others work by determining the amount of pollution that an ecosystem can handle and then auctioning off permits that emitters can then buy and sell among themselves. This are generally not called PES, but instead referred to as “cap-and-trade”.

Either way, the goal is to promote the most efficient use of valuable resources by letting government establish the rules and leaving the market to find the best way to proceed within that framework.

Apples and Air

All of these services provide tangible benefits to people who receive them – just like apples and oranges do. Unlike apples and oranges, however, the benefits of ecosystem services are spread diffusely among different people, leaving little incentive for any individual to pay for them.

You can buy an apple, in other words, and you can buy an orange – but you can’t buy the clean air you generate by saving a mangrove tree. What’s more, if you grow an apple or an orange in a way that dumps insecticides into water, you spread that cost among scores of people who might not even be aware of it.

Pollution is called an “externality”, because its cost is not borne by the person who creates the pollution, but rather by society at large. Society – in the form of government – has responded by passing laws against pollution and the wanton destruction of nature.

Such laws work quite well in many cases, but they can often be overly restrictive. They also create little incentive to find new and innovative solutions, and are often expensive to supervise.

PES schemes offer a new tool that is designed to encourage larger-scale and longer-term preservation of living ecosystems by incorporating the economic value of nature’s services into our economy. Rather than simply banning certain practices, PES schemes aim to calculate the cost of environmental degradation and incorporate it into the cost of production. This way, someone who runs a clean apple orchard that doesn’t muddy nearby streams will pay less for his externalities than someone whose orchard dumps pesticides and other chemicals into local water.

Who Should Pay?

In a straight PES scheme, you begin by figuring out who should pay, who should receive, and how the payments are measured. Mangrove guardians like Thang, for example, might be able to earn a commission from fishers if they can prove that their activities increase the number of healthy fish in surrounding waters. They could also earn commissions from tour boat operators, because mangroves often support the coral reefs that attract tourists and divers. Easiest of all: they can collect carbon payments from industrialists who want to reduce their “carbon footprint” by paying men like Thang to help them capture a percentage of their industrial emissions in trees.

The ecosystem services of a mangrove forest can, therefore, be broken into specific “products”: namely, the protection of species (which are a sign of an overall environmental resiliency), the shielding of coastal areas, the filtration of water, and the sequestration of carbon, among others.

In this example, the carbon payments would come from a cap-and-trade scheme such as the ones outlined in the Kyoto Protocol’s “flexibility mechanisms”. Climate-change negotiators are now working on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, and current proposals make it possible for factories to offset their industrial emissions by preserving or restoring a patch of rainforest, thus capturing carbon in trees.

The most advanced cap-and-trade program to date, however, has nothing to do with carbon. Instead, it has to do with sulfur dioxide, which is the leading cause of acid rain.

The United States launched its Acid Rain Program ( in the 1990s with a cap on sulfur dioxide emissions. A “cap” is the overall amount of pollution allowed into a system, and the government issues allowances based on that cap. Companies that emit sulfur dioxide receive some allowances for free and have to buy others. Then the government begins lowering the cap, and companies that reduce their emissions faster than the cap drops can earn a profit by selling their allowances, while companies that are slow to reduce emissions have to pay more for them. This creates an incentive to reduce emissions in the most efficient way possible, and emissions of sulfur dioxide in the United States are now more than 65% lower than they were in the mid 1970s.

Mitigation Banking and WQT

Cap-and-trade can also be applied to wetlands, biodiversity, and water – where it’s called “mitigation banking” and “water quality trading” (WQT).

Pioneered in the United States, mitigation banking draws its strength from two laws: the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), each of which contains provisions that, in a nutshell, say that anyone who damages the habitat of an endangered species or dredges or fills certain kinds of wetland has to make sure he does so in a way that results in no net loss of habitat or wetland.

The law makes it clear that companies have to first look for ways to prevent damage to the environment. If, however, they can prove that their project is worthwhile and that some environmental damage is unavoidable, they can proceed – provided they restore wetland and/or habitat of equal or greater environmental value than what’s destroyed.

This has led to the proactive restoration of degraded wetland and habitat across the United States as so-called “mitigation bankers” restore marginal farmland to its natural state in the hopes of selling credits to people building roads and houses nearby. In some cases, it’s resulted in healthier habitat than existed before the construction took place, and the model could be tweaked for use across Asia.

Likewise, WQT schemes work by determining how much pollution a body of water can handle, and then letting farms and factories trade among themselves to encourage the most efficient way to reduce runoff into lakes, rivers, and streams.

A Tool in the Belt

None of these schemes is a panacea, and many are still in the early phases of development, but each has the potential to become a valuable tool in the effort to build a sustainable economy for tomorrow.

Their implementation, however, requires a re-thinking of the role of government, the role of the private sector, and the role of civil society. Just as we need to abandon the idea that commerce and environmentalism are in opposition to each other, we also need to recognize that all sectors of society have common goals.

A sustainable economy is one that incorporates all of society’s goals and values – in part by recognizing all of the costs of production.

This will lead to more men like Thang working to preserve nature’s services for future generations – and not as volunteers, but as providers of an ecosystem service.

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Panel Resources: Climate and Land Use Looking Forward

May 11, 2010
By admin

Mitigating Climate Change Through Food and Land Use

More than 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions arise from the land use sector. Thus, no strategy for mitigating global climate change can be complete or successful without reducing emissions from agriculture, forestry, and other land uses. Moreover, only land-based or “terrestrial” carbon sequestration offers the possibility today of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, through plant photosynthesis.

Link to the full article by Ecoagriculture Partners here

Good Practice Guidance for Land Use, Land Change, and Forestry

This report on Good Practice Guidance for Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (GPG-LULUCF) is the response to the invitation by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to develop good practice guidance for land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF).

Read the full article published by the IPCC here

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