An environment for wellbeing:
Pathways out of poverty

Policy messages from the ESPA programme

All of us rely on the natural environment for our survival and wellbeing; and billions of people still rely directly on the environment for their livelihoods.

The dependence of the world’s poorest people on the environment and their contribution to its stewardship are often ‘hidden’ in public debates and decision-making processes.

Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) was a global, interdisciplinary research programme, from 2009–2018. This summary of policy messages, written by the ESPA Directorate, highlights the need for better social and ecological assessments when decisions are being made about the use of environmental resources. Decision-making processes need to paint a clear picture of who benefits and who bears the costs of environmental decisions.

Trade-offs and any potential human costs must be understood and explicitly addressed. An environmental justice approach – open, accountable, and based on recognition of rights and reward for environmental stewardship – can help achieve this.

  • Executive summary

    Executive summary

  • Part I

    Part I

  • Part II

    Part II

  • Part III

    Part III


Raworth, K. (2012) ‘A safe and just space for humanity: Can we live within the doughnut?’ Oxfam Discussion Papers. Oxford: Oxfam. Cited by Dearing, J. (2018) ‘Limits and thresholds: Setting global, local and regional safe operating spaces’, chapter 4 in Schreckenberg, K., Mace, G. and Poudyal, M. (eds) Ecosystem services and poverty alleviation: Trade-offs and governance. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge (forthcoming).