Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Policy Studies

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Robinson

Committee Member

Dr. Michael Hammig

Committee Member

Dr. Holley H. Ulbrich

Committee Member

Dr. Bruce Ranson

Committee Member

Dr. Michael Vassalos


Payment for Environmental Services (PES) Programs in Latin America and Mexico have dominated the market-based environmental policy realm in the past decade due to their new paradigm for solving the problem for ecosystem degradation. There are at least three reasons why a careful examination of the design and implementation of these types of programs is important for the environmental policy discussion in developing world contexts. First and foremost, PES schemes offer several advantages: they are cost-effective, they are institutionally simpler, and they are potentially good for poverty reduction. Second, PES schemes embrace the user-based principle instead of the polluter-pays principle and, in some cases, they have elements of a conditional cash transfer program. Third, from a geographical perspective, PES programs are flexible and adaptive to local, regional, national and international scales. Despite the advantages from a design perspective, PES programs present a set of issues and barriers at the implementation stage, especially within developing world contexts where a set of preconditions must be in place in order for PES programs to work well. It is particularly important in this regard to evaluate the effectiveness of PES programs in the past decade in Mexico and Latin America. The main preconditions identified for an examination of the Mexican case were well-defined property rights and a bias against the poorest amongst the poor from PES program beneficiaries, which are mainly Ejidos. Based on my findings in the PES literature and from the Mexican Pago por Servicios Hidrológicos (PSAH) program evaluations, I propose an alternative framework to account for government, market, and communitarian failures that might arise at any traditional PES scheme within a context of imperfect institutions. In this investigation, I have posed the following questions: First, have PES schemes as public policy interventions changed the behavior of landowners where the environmental services are provided? Second, have the PES programs been effective in Mexico during the last decade? And third, from a policy perspective, what can we learn from the government-based-to-user-based PES scheme transition that is currently taking place in Mexico? I find that government-financed PES schemes have caused only modest or no reversal of deforestation, and that case studies of user-financed, smaller-scale PES schemes claim more substantial impacts to achieve environmental goals. So far, inconclusive evidence exists regarding side goals of PES in Latin America -mainly, poverty alleviation, land tenure, and local economic development.



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