Throughout Southeast Asia, there is increasing regional interest in market-based conservation strategies, including payments for ecosystem services (PES). While a number of projects are underway, PES in the Southeast Asia region primarily occurs on an ad hoc basis through small-scale pilot projects. However, information, capacity to design and manage PES deals, and institutions to support on-the-ground implementation are often lacking and have hindered efforts to scale up.
Carbon markets, both regulated and voluntary, have attracted the greatest attention and offer opportunities for new investment in rural regions of SE Asia. The emergence of opportunities for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) makes it even more important for countries in the region to build their capacity to engage in the global dialogue, design low carbon emission strategies and build multi-stakeholder processes including local communities.
Many SE Asian nations face a range of water-related challenges, including threats to reliable flows of water and the marine environment. While there are efforts underway to introduce market-based approaches — such as payments for watershed services (PWS) and user fees in marine protected areas — there remain outstanding questions, such as: how to identify additional prospective buyers; how to structure the contracts; how to distribute payments equitably to communities; how to monitor the schemes to ensure efficient and effective delivery of the service; and how to ensure that payments schemes are sustainable.
Mangrove ecosystems, in particular, are of particular interest to stakeholders in the region and represent an interesting vehicle to bridge terrestrial environments and marine environments, adaptation and mitigation, and local and international financing schemes (e.g. REDD). Carbon pools of mangroves are now being shown to exceed that of upland tropical forests. Throughout the Mekong region, market-based instruments for the conservation of marine and mangrove ecosystems are still nascent, with only a few small-scale case studies or pilots.