Thailand is somewhat lagging behind other countries in Southeast Asia in adopting the concept of payment for environmental services (PES) as an instrument for creating incentives for natural resources conservation. There are a number of activities involving payments for provision of activities or environmental services but these are missing many elements that would qualify them as a PES project. Others are mainly at the design stage or at the initial stages of implementation. One of the major challenges is to create recognition of the benefits from ecosystems services. Presently, private sectors attach considerable importance to CSR projects. There is nothing wrong with CSR projects but CSR activities do not address missing markets, nor aim to create incentives to undertake conservation measures on a sustainable basis. To create demand on a scale that would give the momentum for PES would require a revamp existing legal tools to create effective demand for conservation services. It may be strategically better to approach the ‘private sector institution' such as: the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Chamber of Commerce, rather than individual private companies. Without this, CSR investment is likely to be spread so thin and while succeeding in promoting publicity of private companies, tangible outcomes in improving the environment are likely to be limited. Although biophysical conditions precede other criteria for selection of potential PES project sites, given that there is an estimated number of forest-dependent people of 1 to 2 million people most of whom believed to be poor and living in environmentally sensitive areas, it is undeniable that PES can be instrumental to addressing poverty alleviation objectives. A major challenge that must be addressed however, is the legal framework. Although not explicitly endorsing the concept of creating incentives for service providers, the relevant laws can be, -and needs to be-, relaxed in specific cases, particularly where PES types projects will be launched in protected areas where there are legal restrictions over access. PES can also supplement the legal provisions to protect biodiversity resources. Like all public goods, over-exploitation of biodiversity resources, is due to the failure to recognize that the economic value exceeds the market prices of the tradable parts of biodiversity resources. Unless there is recognition of the non-tradable benefits, biodiversity resources will continue to be underpriced and under valued, hence the potential contribution of the concept of PES projects to create recognition, demonstrate its economic values and link between the demand and supply side to capture those values.
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Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)