The term “markets” is too limiting: is it time for a change?
Valuing Ecosystem Services, Ecosystem Markets, Payments for Ecosystem Services, Ecosystem Services Transactions, Environmental Markets, and Market-based approaches are but a few of the many terms practitioners who work to value ecosystem services use to describe a broad suite of conservation finance activities.
The traditional definition of market(s), when applied to ecosystem services, implies a fairly narrow set of activities or transactions such as banking, purchasing, and trading ecosystem services credits. Further, there seems to be growing acceptance by practitioners that while the term markets itself is narrow, it implies a wide spectrum of activities ranging from traditional market transactions, such as the buying and selling of nutrient or temperature credits, to the purely voluntary payments for ecosystem services and a range of other types of transactions in between. For example, at the Ecosystem Markets conference in Madison, WI back in June, members of the one panel (myself included) prefaced a discussion about the future of ecosystem markets with a qualification that while we use the term markets, what we really mean is this broader array of activities described above.
Many recognize the limitations of the term “markets”; and the fact that the word itself triggers sensitivity and confusion. Is it time to identify more descriptive language for discussing the work around payments for ecosystem services, ecosystem services markets and the myriad of ways in which we aim to pay for the conservation of natural infrastructure? If so, what can we call this suite of activities? Chime in with your ideas!