Introduction of Payment for Ecosystem: Untangling its ‘messy’ process from institutional perspective

Authors: Hiroe Ishihara*, The University of Tokyo, Unai Pascual, BC 3 Basque Center for Climate Change
Topics: Social Theory, Cultural and Political Ecology, Environment
Keywords: Payment for Ecosystem Service, Institutional change, power relations, institutional bricolage
Session Type: Paper


The institutional change induced by payments for ecosystem services (PES) schemes is often a ‘messy’ process. The uptake and outcomes of PES schemes cannot be fully explained from a rational choice perspective. This paper introduces interconnected three concepts, ‘institutional fit”, “institutional bricolage” and “institutional logic”, to analyse this ‘messy’ process. When PES scheme does not ‘fit’ the socio-ecological context of the local area where PES has been introduced, actors assemble or reshape their actions by hybridising, bricolaging in our term, new institutions such as a PES scheme within other locally embedded institutions. Here the notion of institutional fit does not refer to merely the ecological fit but also the social fit, i.e. the congruence between institution and the preferences, values, and needs of human actors. We refer to these actors’ preference, value and needs as “institutional logic”. By introducing these three concepts, the paper presents a conceptual framework for understanding the ‘messy’ process. Further, the paper will present a case study from Japan is used to illustrate how a PES scheme designed to conserve the habitat of a charismatic and endangered flagship species, the Oriental White Stork, has been reshaped by social actors to fit the locally dominant ‘institutional logic’, i.e. the value of the local community. By using this case study, the paper argues that the institutional change induced by PES is not just guided by individual preference to maximise their welfare but also guided by the power relations embedded inside the community.

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