Rewarding environmental stewardship: New thinking on its role in development policy

15 Feb 2018
Date/Time: 17:30, 20:00, 15 February, 2018
Venue: International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), 80-86 Grays Inn Rd, London WC1X 8NH

A conditional in-kind transfer: A Mayor (left) gives a water tank to a local man (middle) in exchange for conservation efforts – facilitated by an non-governmental organisation (NGO) director (right).

Watch the event here

An evening of presentations, discussion and networking where we explored the latest thinking and case studies of how different governance mechnisms can be more effective in achieving socioeconomic and environmental goals, and what this means for development policy.

To support discussions on how greater impact can be achieved, a summary of programmes from around the world that have been successfully scaled-up were made available ahead of time.


Environmental stewardship for poverty alleviation

Millions of poor people throughout the developing world rely directly on their local environment for services such as food production, clean water and flood protection. The global importance of many environments in the developing world – particularly those with high biodiversity and that store large amounts of carbon – is also internationally recognised.

Environmental stewardship is therefore often incentivised through governance schemes, such as payments for ecosystem services (PES), reciprocal watershed agreements (RWS) or reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+),  as a means to achieve win-wins for the environment and human wellbeing. However, practical experience over the past two decades has shown that conservation, whether at the national or international level, can sometimes inadvertently hurt the poor, worsen inequalities and undermine development efforts.

Lessons for development policy

A recent evolution in thinking towards ‘conditional transfers’ has combined the best of social transfer experience with environmental objectives in ‘rewarding’ environmental stewardship. Lessons have emerged regarding practical steps and tools that can help achieve better social and environmental outcomes, as well as increased momentum for political will and financial resources that can allow conditional transfers to be scaled-up effectively.

The evening heard from four case studies of schemes aiming to incentivise environmental stewardship, spanning a range of social and environmental contexts and different scales. Discussions focussed on how different approaches to incentivising environmental stewardship can be more effective as mechanisms to achieve both socioeconomic and environmental goals, particularly in helping to address persistent poverty, and how such interventions engage with the political economy of policy implementation at local scales. Links were then made to implications for development policy.


Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystems, and Head of the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London

Director of Strategy and Policy at the Santa Cruz-based Fundación Natura Bolivia
Presentation: Adaptation, mitigation, watershed protection and economic development in Latin America
Professor of Conservation Science at Bangor University
Presentation: What can global payments for ecosystem services schemes such as REDD+ contribute to poverty alleviation? 
Professor of Political Economy, Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, and Director of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute
Presentation: Political Economy considerations in the implementation of reciprocal watershed agreements 
Senior Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development
Presentation: The largest Payment for Ecosystem Services scheme in the world: conditional transfers in the Eco-Compensation Programme in China