The idea of valuing nature has become a core element of contemporary sustainable development and green economy agendas. This has been enabled by the widespread acceptance of the ‘ecosystems services’ concept, which tries to capture the value of the environment for human wellbeing. The focus of this research project is be on the translation of this concept into different policies that allocate a value to nature, and the policy learning that is taking place across multiple levels of governance (local, national, international, transnational). As the ecosystems services concept becomes increasingly embedded in development planning and economic policy-making, it is essential to understand the opportunities it creates for environmental conservation and social development, and its inherent tensions and limitations. This requires a degree of reflexivity in policy-making to ensure that policies are informed by the historical lessons of ecosystem services experiments, the diverse knowledge of contemporary stakeholders, and self-critical awareness of uncertainty and multiple ontological perspectives.
The project has three key objectives:
- To develop an advanced understanding of the emergence and evolution of the concept of ecosystem services (and the related ideas of valuation of ecosystem services and payment for ecosystem services), and of their integration into established discourses, institutions and practices of environmental governance at different scales;
- To critically interrogate practical experiences with ecosystem services-linked policy initiatives in selected national and international contexts, considering implications for the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of policy processes, outputs and outcomes;
- To examine the extent to which reflexive practices have already been incorporated into the governance of ecosystem services, and more broadly the potential of the ecosystem services idea to contribute to reflexive governance for sustainable development and movement towards a green economy.