Payments for environmental services as an alternative to logging under weak property rights: The case of Indonesia
Decentralization reforms in Indonesia have led to local communities negotiating logging agreements with timber companies for relatively low financial payoffs and at high environmental cost. This paper analyzes the potential of payments for environmental services (PES) to provide an alternative to logging for these communities and to induce forest conservation. We apply a game-theoretical model of community-firm interactions that explicitly considers two stylized conditions present in the Indonesian context: (i) community rights to the forest remain weak even after decentralization, and (ii) the presence of logging companies interested in the commercial exploitation of the forest. Intuition may suggest that PES design should focus on those communities with the lowest expected payments from logging deals. However, we show that these communities may not be able to enforce a PES agreement, i.e., they may not be able to prevent logging activities by timber companies. Moreover, some communities would conserve the forest anyway; in these cases PES would not lead to additional environmental gains. Most important, the introduction of PES may increase a community's expected payoff from a logging agreement. A failure to consider this endogeneity in expected payoffs could lead to communities opting for logging agreements despite PES, simply allowing communities to negotiate better logging deals. Our results indicate that PES design is a complex task, and that the costs of an effective PES system could potentially be much higher than expected from observing current logging fees. Using data collected in Indonesia on actual logging fees received by communities, we illustrate how the theoretical results could be used in empirical analysis to guide PES design. Our results are likely to be useful in other cases where local people make resource use decisions but have weak property rights over these resources, and where external commercial forces are present. The results highlight the importance of understanding the details of the local context in order to design PES programs appropriately.
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