Private Conservation Agreements Support Climate Action: Ecuador's Socio Bosque Programme
Environmental degradation and the resulting loss of ecosystem services, increased vulnerability to climate change, and rural poverty often reinforce one another. Ecosystem conservation can help to stop this vicious cycle, as well as contribute to the mitigation of climate change through the avoidance of emissions, particularly in the case of forests. This is the core principle behind the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) proposed scheme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), which aims to financially reward countries for lowering forest-related emissions. Since the bulk of REDD+ payments would be performance-based, governments must take action to reduce emissions directly or by offering reduction incentives – ideally to those who directly manage forests.
One way to encourage emissions reduction is through conservation agreements, defined as ‘a transparent, voluntary, and participatory alliance, in which the owners or administrators of a resource agree to protect the natural value of an area in exchange for direct, ongoing, and structured economic incentives to offset the costs of conservation’. In Ecuador’s Socio Bosque programme, the Ministry of Environment (MAE) enters into conservation agreements with private and communal (including indigenous) landholders, offering yearly monetary payments in return for maintaining forest cover. The programme’s other key objective is to improve the socioeconomic situation of the poorest among the rural population.