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PES What a Mess? An Analysis of the Position of Environmental Professionals in the Conceptual Debate on Payments for Ecosystem Services
- Martin-Ortega, Julia, Waylen, Kerry A.
- Ecological economics 2018 v.154 pp. 218-237
- ecosystem services, nongovernmental organizations, professionals, risk, surveys, United Kingdom
- Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) are becoming increasingly widespread as they are being promoted by government and non-governmental organisations across the globe. Alongside this, an academic debate has unfolded regarding how PES ought to be conceptualized and defined. Using the first survey of environmental professionals on this topic, we explore their position in this conceptual debate in the UK. Our study shows that all aspects of the key academic debates are reflected in the views of environmental professionals, whose range of understandings suggests no viewpoint is either dominant or uncontested. Expecting all to share a single 'perfect' definition of PES may be neither necessary nor feasible. However, at present this term invokes a very wide range of ideas that may generate frictions as PES are further implemented. This risks PES becoming a ‘mess’ from which few insights can be derived as to whether, when and why they are useful instruments. It essential that those debating and proposing PES concepts more closely consider the complex processes by which professionals engage with and shape its application as an abstract construct.