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Buyer, Regulator, and Enabler – The Government’s Role in Ecosystem Services Markets

International Lessons Learned for Payments for Ecological Services in the People's Republic of China

By Sara J. Scherr, Michael T. Bennett - EcoAgriculture Partners, Forest Trends
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This paper discusses the public sector’s role in PES internationally. In general, the public sector’s role
in ecosystem services markets is both critical, and evolving.

The public sector roles are evolving in three distinct ways: 1) Government as buyer of ecosystem services (a strategy to replace or complement government regulation); 2) Government as regulator, mobilizing private demand for ecosystem services through environmental compliance rules, or setting up cap-and-trade systems; and 3) Government as enabler, facilitating the growth of private voluntary transactions. The paper details these different roles, provides some key examples, and discusses what insights international experience and trends have for the PRC, as it continues to modify and refine the government’s role in conservation and environmental policy.