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Payment for environmental services (PES) is a conservation policy option that its implementation in Asian developing countries demands integrating environmental service provision and livelihood enhancement. The analysis of a payment for carbon service in Indonesia revealed that tensions between PES design rules and land managers’ practices existed. It can shed light onto PES positive and negative impacts on land managers, including their performance in accomplishing their contractual agreements with the carbon buyer. This empirical case overall emphasizes the importance of examining PES beyond conventional economic analysis, i.e. micro- and meso-analysis. Consequently, PES research from developing countries might consider the involvement of other scales targeting pico-economics, where decision making, interpretation of observations and construction of perceived causal mechanisms influence PES performances and ensure balance of tradeoff between ES provision and multidimensional poverty alleviation. Moreover, the macroeconomic context of national development and giga economic scale of global issues imply direct relevance to effectiveness and fairness of PES schemes.