Justice notions in Payment for Environmental Services: insights from China’s sloping land conversion programme

  • China's Sloping Land Conversion Programme (SLCP) is the world's largest payments for ecosystem services (PES) scheme.
  • State policy on the SLCP contains provisions for distributive and procedural justice
  • Villagers, local officials and state policy share the concern about distributive justice 
  • The shared distributive concern contributes to reforestation and rising incomes

For over a decade, the Chinese government has implemented the Sloping Land Conversion Programme (SLCP), the world’s largest payments for ecosystem services (PES) programme. It uses public payments to convert marginal cropland located in upper watersheds into forests, engaging millions of mountain-dwelling households in the process. The SLCP has received significant criticism from researchers in China and abroad in term of its effectiveness, efficiency and fairness. However, after some adjustments, the SLCP has also generated successful outcomes in terms of expanding tree cover and improved livelihoods. Based on an in-depth case study from the Yangliu watershed in Yunnan province, this chapter explores the underlying reasons for the SLCP’s environmental and economic successes by analysing how different stakeholders frame their justice concerns in the SLCP. It suggests that the SLCP has been successful because, among other factors, its implicit model of justice has sufficiently overlapped with local officials’ and villagers’ notions of justice.

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