A Comparative Analysis of Accountability Mechanisms for Ecosystem Services Markets in the United States and the European Union
Transnational Environmental Law, 2, pp 259-283. doi:10.1017/S2047102513000125.
Posted: 8 Nov 2015
Date Written: June 5, 2013
Markets in ecosystem services have the potential to provide financial incentives to protect the environment either in lieu of or in addition to more traditional regulatory programmes. If these markets function properly, they can provide enhanced levels of environmental quality or more efficient mechanisms for protecting natural resources that provide vital services to humans. The theoretical benefits of ecosystem services markets may be undercut, however, if care is not taken in creating the legal infrastructure that supports trading to ensure that trades actually provide the promised environmental benefits. This article identifies five essential pillars of an ecosystem services market regime that are necessary to provide operational accountability safeguards. These include financial safeguards, verifiable performance standards, transparency and public participation standards, regulatory oversight mechanisms, and rule of law safeguards. The article assesses whether the laws of the United States (US) and European Union (EU) are well designed to provide such accountability. It concludes that despite recognition of the risk of market manipulation and outright fraud, regulators in the US and the EU to date have responded to these risks largely in an ad hoc and incomplete fashion, rather than embedding the mechanisms for operational accountability discussed in this article into the regulatory framework that governs ecosystem services trading markets.
Keywords: Markets for Ecosystem Services, Accountability, Safeguards, Legitimacy, Payments for Ecosystem Services
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