Environmentalists have talked for decades about the value of the clean air, clean water, biodiversity and other “services” provided by nature. Now comes the fullest accounting to date of actual transactions that pay for such services. The headline number: between $36 billion and $42 billion per year, in more than 550 “payment for ecosystem services” programs worldwide, according to the compendium, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Sustainability.

There are several varieties of such programs, including user-financed payments. Governments may also pay for such services. China has the largest such program in the world.

The take-home message for China is, ‘This is not a blip.’ This is a core aspect of national strategy. Their goal is to increase payments in coming years, not to reduce them

After a series of floods and droughts two decades ago, the Chinese government established the Sloping Land Conservation Program (focused on converting steep farmland to forest and grassland) and the Natural Forest Conservation Program (to encourage logging bans and reforestation). The two programs distributed between $50 and $100 billion between 2000 and 2010 and continue to operate.

Read the full article on payments for ecosystem services by David Bank at ImpactAlpha