In this interview, Carlos Muñoz discusses the implementation of the Payment for Environmental Services (PES) program in Mexico. He relates how the idea for PES developed during his studies and his travels through Mexico and Latin America. While finishing his dissertation at UC Berkeley, Muñoz received an offer of employment at the Mexican National Institute of Ecology (INE). As the Director of Economic Research at INE, Muñoz worked to earmark a portion of existing water taxes to fund the PES program, which pays communities for the positive externalities of their forests. Muñoz describes the complicated but ultimately successful processes of developing the PES policy at INE and then building political consensus to pass it into law. Once this was accomplished in 2003, PES quickly gained support from the involved communities, and program funding was expanded. INE then focused on improving PES by better targeting the forests at greatest risk of being destroyed. Muñoz describes how the program successfully reduced deforestation rates and empowered communities, who used PES money for education and community forestry firms. He lastly relates the program’s greatest challenges and the influence of outside groups like the World Bank. Muñoz hopes that PES will continue to improve its targeting of forests, and sees discretional use of PES as the program’s biggest threat in the future.
At the time of this interview, Carlos Muñoz-Piña was an Independent Senior Consultant in economic analysis as well as a professor at the Mexican Autonomous Institute of Technology (ITAM). Muñoz studied economics at ITAM and holds an M.Sc degree in Environmental Economics from University College London and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. Muñoz has worked for the federal government of Mexico, the World Bank, and the London Environmental Economics Centre, and also worked pro-bono for various NGOs. From 2001 to 2011, he served as the Director General of Environmental Economics and Policy Research at the federal Ministry of the Environment; it was in this capacity that he implemented the PES program.