UNECE Code of Conduct on Payments for Ecosystem Services

14/06/2006

How to pay for water-related ecosystem services?

Earlier this year, the Ramsar Secretariat actively participated in a drafting group, chaired by Switzerland (Ms Sibylle Vermont), preparing for the Parties to the UNECE Water Convention (cf. www.unece.org/env/water/) a "Code of conduct on payments for ecosystem services in integrated water resources management" to be adopted at their next COP on 20-22 November 2006 in Bonn, Germany. This represents another step in Ramsar's cooperation with the UNECE Water Convention's "Nature for Water" programme (cf. our earlier presentation of two brochures produced by the programme).

As the Swiss State Secretary for the Environment, Bruno Oberle, explains in his letter (attached), the role of ecosystems in water management, such as forests, soils and wetlands, which capture, filter, store and distribute water, and mitigate floods, has increasingly been recognized. And it is becoming clear that payments for ecosystem services will become instrumental for sustainable water management. Forests and wetlands often provide water-related services that need to be paid for. Traditionally this may have been done through public subsidies using taxpayers' money. A more efficient solution may be to create markets in order to establish payment schemes that provide economic solutions which will benefit both, the beneficiaries of ecosystem services and the investors who assure the continuation of specific ecosystem services. The Code of conduct is meant to provide guidance on the establishment and use of such payments for ecosystem services to implement integrated water resources management through the promotion of the protection, restoration and sustainable use of water-related ecosystems, at all levels, from local to transboundary. The Code is available in English and Russian at www.unece.org/env/water/meetings/documents.htm#iwrm (and the English version is also attached here).

A Code of conduct for payments for water-related ecosystem services is likely to be of high interest to Ramsar Parties, because it is based on a clear recognition and understanding of the many water-related services that wetlands, and other water-related ecosystems, provide for human well-being. The Ramsar Parties are therefore invited to consider this Code and to send their comments by 22 June to the Water Convention Secretariat (water.convention@unece.org), with a copy to the Ramsar Secretariat (salathe@ramsar.org). This will help facilitate the discussion of the UNECE Working Group on Integrated Water Resources Management during its forthcoming meeting on 26-27 June 2006 in Geneva.

Many thanks for your active input and dissemination of this report among your colleagues involved in water management, agriculture, forestry and livestock breeding.

-- Tobias Salathé, Ramsar Secretariat

Invitation to comment, from the Swiss State Secretary for the Environment

Draft Code of Conduct on payments for ecosystem services in integrated water resources management

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