To succeed, REDD should consider factors outside forest sector

January 24, 2011

Policymakers should not ignore activities outside the forestry sector in efforts to reduce global deforestation, argues a new report published by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).

The assessment, Embracing complexity: Meting the challenges of international forest governance, says previous efforts to curtail forest loss have "too often" ignored local needs and failed to address the underlying drivers of deforestation, including poor governance and international demand for commodities. It argues that the proposed reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism may too flounder if it fails to incorporate lessons from previous forest conservation and sustainable development initiatives.

"Our findings suggest that disregarding the impact on forests of sectors such as agriculture and energy will doom any new international efforts whose goal is to conserve forests and slow climate change," said Jeremy Rayner, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan Graduate School of Public Policy and chair of the IUFRO panel that produced the new assessment.

"REDD has gone further than past global forest strategies in engaging agriculture and other key sectors. Nevertheless, there is still a long ways to go," added co-author Constance McDermott of Oxford University. "Unless all sectors work together to address the impact of global consumption, including growing demand for food and biofuels, and problems of land scarcity, REDD will fail to arrest environmental degradation and will heighten poverty."

The report says REDD is most likely to succeed if it avoids "top-down" efforts to protect forests and instead considers the national and local context of the factors that drive deforestation, including land tenure laws, community-participation in land-use planning processes, and demand for food and energy. It argues argues that REDD discussions should put more emphasis on engaging the wide range of stakeholders whose activities impact, and are impacted by, forests.

"Instead of generating ‘grand plans’ based on the simplification of complex problems on a global scale, we might be better advised to listen and learn from existing efforts, both public and private, across multiple scales and multiple sectors," said McDermott in a statement.

“We are not saying we need to abandon a global approach to forest governance, but we do need to establish the appropriate roles,” added Rayner. “The REDD process, for example, might provide a great way to raise money for sustainable forest management and other forest programs, but much of the details and operational aspects would be undertaken at the regional and national levels.”

Embracing complexity: Meting the challenges of international forest governance

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To succeed, REDD should consider factors outside forest sector.