Stack them? Bundle them? Just get the investment for ecosystem services – as many as possible
“Additionality”, referring to the relationship between payments for ecosystem services and their direct cause in improving an ecosystem service, was a common discussion thread at a recent workshop on stacking and bundling. The question was whether sellers/providers already receiving payments can/should receive payments for additional services without any change in management.
There are several reasons why additionality is a concern:
- Cost-effectiveness: conservation dollars are limited, so they should go to as many places as possible.
- Pricing: too many conservation credits can drive the price down decreasing incentives to resource “owners.”
- Offsets: they are meant to compensate for environmental damage at another location; if no new activities occur, then no offsetting actually takes place.
- Double counting: businesses don’t want to pay double for something.
I challenge the community to flip this discussion around. Rather than focusing on the supply of ecosystem services and restrictions on payments, what if we instead focus more on creating demand? Afterall, we tout the multiple (currently non-market) values ecosystems services provide. We should put this into practice and capture as much of these values as possible, starting by allowing for multiple payments with or without additional activities, especially if companies are willing.
The key is to design frameworks that would allow for such multiple payments and put into place safeguards for the special case of offsets. The more demand there is, the higher the price and the payments, and the more likely we can tip the balance towards healthy ecosystems.