Target audience: Who can use these guidelines? (please click)
The guidelines are for people in both conservation and development sectors responsible for designing, planning and implementing conservation and development activities in areas with high biodiversity or important ecosystem services. For conservation practitioners they can help incorporate economic and development concerns into conservation planning and management. For development practitioners they can help integrate biodiversity and ecosystem service opportunities into development planning.
Potential users include people from government agencies, non-governmental organisations, community groups and private companies. The guidelines can assist in:
Our primary audience is the technical staff, consultants and researchers who will actually be involved in working through the steps and tasks on the ground. The guidelines provide a detailed, step-by-step ‘how to’ guide to steer the team through the whole process. The team leader or someone else in the core team should ideally have some training (e.g. undergraduate education) in economic approaches and methods, be familiar with the concept of ecosystem services, and have a background in rural development or community-based conservation. Without this experience it may be more difficult to apply the guidelines successfully – though not entirely impossible!
In addition, we envisage that at least two other audiences may find the guidelines useful:
What are ‘Ecosystem Service Opportunities’? (please click)
‘Ecosystem service opportunities’ build on an ecosystem service perspective and general economic principles for recognizing how economic instruments can influence incentives and motivate actors to safeguard ecosystems. Many reasons for unsustainable behavior are of economic nature. People degrade, convert or over-exploit the natural environment because it is profitable (or less costly) for them to do so. Local communities often lack access to alternative products, technologies, markets and practices that could provide more sustainable income and employment alternatives. Moreover, the costs and benefits of conservation are often spread unevenly. The people who actually manage the land and its resources incur most of the cost, through restrictions on their economic activities and opportunities. At the same time, they often receive a disproportionately low share of the benefits. In such cases there is very little local-level motivation to manage land and resources in a way which will conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The “ecosystem service opportunities” framework taps into these gaps and imbalances as entry points by which suitable policy and financing instruments can positively change behavior. In a nutshell, the economic logic behind policy and financing instruments is to make environmentally positive outcomes more profitable than harmful ones, based on four key economic principles: ‘Steward Earns’, ‘Beneficiary Pays’, ‘Polluter Pays’, and ‘Innovation’.
Although we show that policy and financing instruments rely on one or several of these principles, economic aspects are of course only part of the picture. Whether instruments work effectively depends on many different conditions such as environmental awareness, clear allocation of rights to use the land and its resources, and trust and collaboration between stakeholders. The guidelines deal with these conditions in so far as mentioning where they should be considered, and they provide references to documents where further guidance can be found.
We find conservation practitioners frequently equating the use of economics with economic valuation of ecosystem services, hoping that economic valuation studies will help them make the case for nature conservation and initiate positive change. But in most circumstances, the benefits and costs of changes accrue to different parties in very different ways, and the revelation of ecosystem service values does not in itself change the behavior of individuals, corporations or communities. For us, one great advantage of economics is its structured view of the motives and incentives of different actors for conserving – or degrading – ecosystems.
How is the Step-by-Step process organized? (please click)
The Step-by-Step process is the core of the ESO guidelines. The seven steps are organized in three stages. Within each of the steps you will be guided toward carrying out different tasks in a specific order. For each task, you will find information about the content (‘What this task is about’) and the process (‘How to go about this task’). Although the steps and tasks follow a logical, iterative process and often depend on information generated or agreement reached earlier, it is important to be flexible and adapt to the context.
It is not always necessary to apply all seven steps, and the procedure will typically form part of a wider project or policy cycle and needs to be integrated into it. Stage 2 (Steps 2–4) could be used in isolation as a scoping exercise for understanding which instruments could be useful in a particular setting. If opportunities are found, then the results of the scoping could be used to request funding for a more integrative process and to actually develop an instrument. A quick version of Stage 2 can also be used to justify a new project on this topic or to put the topic on the political agenda. In other instances, team leaders may already have a specific instrument in mind. In that case the focus will be on the design and planning aspects covered in Stage 3 (Steps 5–7). Sometimes it might still be useful to confirm the initial ideas using Steps 2–4 (and to take stakeholders on board).
This icon indicates a template or checklists to help the user apply the guidelines and keep track of what has been found out and achieved.
Throughout the guidelines, examples are provided of template tables from different application experiences.
This icon indicates an important tip. Important tips regarding specific aspects of the process are highlighted in boxes.
This icon indicates a specific lesson or example.
For each step, the guidelines provide selected references and further guidance for carrying out the tasks.
The step-by-step process
Stage 1: Preparation: The first stage contains a single step and explains the preparation for the process.
Stage 2: Understanding the situation and identifying opportunities (please click)
Stage 2 (Steps 2–4) describes a stakeholder-inclusive assessment process to
1) understand the situation and the issues related to ecosystem services,
2) identify the opportunities for improving the situation towards more sustainable behaviours, and
3) select suitable policy and financing instruments.
Stage 2 can also be used as a scoping exercise for understanding the extent to which policy and financing instruments might be useful in a particular setting. If the opportunities seem worth pursuing, the results of the scoping could be the basis for a funding proposal to conduct a more integrative process and to develop an instrument.
Stage 3: Designing and planning the instrument (please click)
With the short-list of potentially suitable economic instruments at hand, this part of the guidelines supports the participative design and planning process of the economic instrument(s), clarifying what exactly is to be implemented, how, and by whom. The guidance in Stage 3 is in some ways more general than the guidance in Stage 2.
The reason is twofold:
i) the context of the local situation will be different for each application;
ii) the type of instruments selected at the end of Stage 2 can take many forms.
Following the tasks in the step-wise process serves as a general road map, but we also provide links to other resources
that may offer more specific guidance on a particular economic instrument.