02.07.conference corbera

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02.07.conference corbera

  1. 1. Payments for ecosystem services as commodity fetishism Esteve Corbera School of International Development University of East Anglia International Conference on Environmental Conflicts and Justice Barcelona, 2-3 July 2010 This presentation is based on the article: Kosoy, N. and E. Corbera (2010) Payments for ecosystem services as commodity fetishism. Ecological Economics 69: 1228-1236. Friday, July 2, 2010
  2. 2. Talk outline • What are payments for ecosystem services? • Overview of the concept ‘commodity fetishism’ • The argument - PES three ‘invisibilities’ • Conclusions Friday, July 2, 2010
  3. 3. What are Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES)? • Nature provides many services to humans Ecosystem services (ES) are those benefits obtained from nature that satisfy human needs and simultaneously fulfill other species requirements (Costanza et al. 1997; MEA 2005) e.g. primary production, pollination, soil formation • ES as positive externalities • PES emerge to address this problem ‘A voluntary transaction where a well-defined ecosystem service is bought by a buyer, if and only if the provider secures the provision of such service’ (Wunder 2005) a) clear relationship between the land use promoted and the provision of ES b) stakeholders can terminate the contractual relationship c) a monitoring system must ensure that the provision of ES takes place (additionality and conditionality of payments) • PES, in practice, take multiple forms (Muradian et al. 2010) Friday, July 2, 2010
  4. 4. What are Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES)? • PES additional premises - Mapping “stocks and flows” of resources and processes in ecosystems - Valuing (economically) the cost of losing such resources & services - Establishing clear property rights over ecosystems (and their services) Friday, July 2, 2010
  5. 5. Commodity fetishism • The commodity - A thing that satisfies human wants of some sort - Conceptual and material boundaries / property • The ‘fetish’ - ‘Feitiço’ (in portuguese) - ‘magic’ • The fetishism of commodities (Marx 1898) - Make invisible the information re: social relations behind their production - Difficult to quantify the surplus behind the the worker’s labour • Commodity fetishism to refer to other contemporary processes of human behaviour and social exchange - Materialistic bias and privatization of public goods (Hirsch 2006) - Uneven access to labour, profits and information in commodity chains (Bernstein and Campling 2006) - ‘Machine fetishism’ - isolating people’s technological capacity from their position in global resource flows (Hornborg 2001) Friday, July 2, 2010
  6. 6. PES as commodity fetishism ‘PES are fetishistic insofar they embed a mystical process (i.e. itemisation); deny multiple forms of valuation (i.e. exchange-value) and mask or reproduce uneven social relations (i.e. normalisation)’ This argument is explained with examples from the commodification of primary production by vegetal ecosystems (carbon sequestration) Friday, July 2, 2010
  7. 7. 1. Simplifying ecosystems complexity • ES itemising for valuation, pricing and exchange (Castree 2003) Abstraction: to establish real and classifiable Individuation: to establish legal and material similarities between distinct entities to boundaries to sell, buy and use specific ensure that one unit of ES is the same phenomena across space and time regardless of where it is produced or sold Scientific expertise a) to separate ecosystem functions in units of trade b) to define land-use practices for maximising tradable units • Itemisation of ecosystem functions masks the relational aspects of ecosystems - erodes complexity (Saundberg 2007) Does a certificate of one tone of CO2 fixed on vegetal tissues express the various and diverse processes which have induced photosynthesis? • Management practices can be counterproductive for the same or other ecosystem services - trade-offs (Kareiva et al. 2007) Eucalyptus/Pinus versus genetic diversity Friday, July 2, 2010
  8. 8. 2. Imposing a single language of valuation • Ecosystem services have multiple values across geographies • Attributing an economic value may be technically possible but this may not be accepted and may undermine other forms of valuation (and conservation) The ‘crowding out’ effect (Mellström and Johannesson 2008) • Compensation should be expressed in the same metrics as expressed by PES providers - to reflect diverse forms of human well-being • Carbon sequestration - monetary exchange value attributed through international carbon markets The same exchange-value (the carbon price) underpins emission reductions from technological change and from carbon sequestration Changes in plantation rotation cycles? A forest goddess with a Compensation for indigenous-protected tag price? forests? A financial opportunity for consultants and banks? Friday, July 2, 2010
  9. 9. 3. Asymmetries in price formation & property rights • PES do not address critically how price is established and through which mechanism ‘The poor sell cheap’ - lack of other financial opportunities Global historical injustices in access to sinks and resources • Uneven structures of property rights over ecosystems/services Lack of clarity re: ownership in property regimes Re-distribution of property rights through State/community authority • In the context of carbon offsetting... Carbon credits as ‘vehicles for development’ - ahistorical & unproblematised Particular actors marginalised from project frameworks New carbon trading initiatives opening doors for State’s appropriation of ES Friday, July 2, 2010
  10. 10. Conclusions • PES (in its more efficient, market-based expression) expand the frontiers of commodification towards nature’s services • PES are “fetishistic” 1. Encapsulate nature’s services in commodities which make invisible the ecosystems and socio-cultures producing them 2. Impose a single language of valuation (chrematistics) 3. Traded ES ‘mistify unequal relations of exchange’ and access to natural resources (i.e. mechanisms of price formation and property rights) • PES can be reformed but... a more radical take would re- claim the public good character of ecosystem services Friday, July 2, 2010
  11. 11. Conclusions ‘The boundaries that separate the ‘free’ unpriced world of knowledge, the body and so on from those of the market are being eroded. The appropriate response to the erosion of such boundaries is not to make sure that, as they disappear, the best price is achieved. It is rather to resist the disappearance of the proper boundaries between the different spheres… The same is true of environmental goods. It may be the case that the environment is unpriced and in a world in which market norms predominate this might be a problem… We best serve environmental goals by resisting the spread of market norms’ (John O’Neill (2007) Markets, Deliberation and Environment. Routledge, London. p. 45) Friday, July 2, 2010
  12. 12. References Bernstein, H., Campling, L., 2006a. Commodity studies and commodity fetishism I: trading down. Journal of Agrarian Change 6 (2), 239–264. Costanza, R., d'Arge, R., de Groot, R., et al. , 1997. The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387 (6630), 253–260. Hirsch, F., 2006. The new commodity fetishism. In: Jackson, T. (Ed.), The Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Consumption. Earthscan, London. Hornborg, A., 2001. Symbolic technologies: machines and the Marxian notion of fetishism. Anthropological Theory 1 (4), 473–496. Kareiva, P., Watts, S., McDonald, R., Boucher, T., 2007. Domesticated nature: shaping landscapes and ecosystems for human welfare. Science 316 (5833), 1866. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and HumanWell-being Synthesis. Island Press,Washington, DC. Mellström, C., Johannesson, M., 2008. Crowding out in blood donation: Was Titmuss right? Journal of the European Economic Association 6 (4), 845–863. Muradian, R., Corbera, E., Pascual, U., Kosoy, N., May, P., 2010. Reconciling theory and practice: An alternative conceptual framework for understanding payments for environmental services. Ecological Economics 69 (6), 1202–1208. Saundberg, A., 2007. Property rights and ecosystem properties. Land Use Policy 24, 613– 623. Wunder, S., 2005. Payments for environmental services: some nuts and bolts. Occasional Paper No. 42. Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor. Friday, July 2, 2010

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