Rainforest in Indonesia.
The concept of paying tropical countries to reduce destruction of their forests is succeeding as an idea but suffering from implementation challenges, argues a new review by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), as the U.N.-backed initiative is known, gained momentum as a climate change mitigation approach in the mid-2000s. The concept was widely championed by a variety of stakeholders. But as REDD+ has moved from theory to real-world projects, complications have grown while enthusiasm has waned.
The new book from CIFOR examines this transformation, analyzing REDD+ design and early implementation. It identifies a number of challenges that need to be overcome to ensure REDD+ is equitable, cost effective, and actually reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s a reality check on what is happening on the ground,” says CIFOR’s Arild Angelsen, an environmental economist and professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences who was the book’s main editor.
“REDD+ as an idea is a success story,” Angelsen continued. “It was something genuinely new, and the new key element was that it was based on payments for performance or results. And it was also accompanied by big money.”
“We compare it to ‘sustainable development’ – a nice catch phrase and promising to do a lot. Both ideas have been inspirational for policy makers and practitioners, but results so far are not what many hoped for.”
The book notes that REDD+ is facing huge challenges, including powerful interests pushing business-as-usual approaches to forest use, difficulties in coordinating between different levels of government, concerns about activities that could jeopardize local people and wildlife, lack of land rights, benefits distribution local communities, sources of finance at a time of economic uncertainty, corruption, reliable monitoring, and credible processes for establishing reference levels.
“If you have a system of payments you could in theory make everybody winners – but in practice there are two challenges: firstly, we don’t have enough financing to change the fundamental equation and thereby make everyone winners, and secondly it’s very difficult to design a system that will make sure everyone wins,” Angelsen said.
“There are a lot of practical challenges, but this book shows there are workable, technical solutions to these, so the main problems are really the political ones.”
Rainforest in Indonesia.
But REDD+ still has great potential, says the book.
“REDD+ requires – and can catalyze – transformational change: New economic incentives, new information and discourses, new actors and new policy coalitions have the potential to move domestic policies away from the business as usual trajectory,” stated a briefing from CIFOR.
CIFOR says there is also an element of “no regret” with REDD+ policy in that steps needed to ensure the success of REDD+ are still beneficial even if REDD+ never gets off the ground.
“Despite uncertainty about the future of REDD+, stakeholders need to build political support and coalitions for change, invest in adequate information systems, and implement policies that can reduce deforestation and forest degradation, but are desirable regardless of climate objectives.”
Analysing REDD+ Challenges and choices [PDF] has 66 authors and was released to coincide with CIFOR’s Forest Day at the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil.
(01/17/2012) A proposed mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by protecting tropical forests has evolved considerably since it started to gain momentum during the 2005 climate talks in Montreal. Known then as ‘avoided deforestation’, the concept was simple: pay tropical forest countries to keep their forests standing. Since then, the concept has broadened to include activities beyond strict forest conservation, including reducing logging and fire, protecting carbon-dense peatlands, encouraging better forest management practices in existing forest concessions, and promoting reforestation and afforestation. A prominent voice in the discussion around REDD since its inception is the environmental activist group Greenpeace. Mongabay recently caught up with Roman Czebiniak, Greenpeace International’s Political Advisor on Climate Change and Forests, for an update on the organization’s position on REDD as well as recent developments in the forest carbon policy arena.
(10/11/2011) The 11th Rights and Resources Initiative Dialogue on Forests, Governance and Climate Change in London, which will focus on The Status and Role of Public and Private Finance to Reduce Forest Loss and Degradation. The goal of the RRI Dialogue is to examine the current state of public and private financial mechanisms for REDD+ and adaptation and contribute to developing an updated vision for the optimal design and deployment of finance to reduce forest loss and degradation – while respecting the rights and development needs of local people. RRI has partnered with Mongabay.com to present two diverging viewpoints on issues to be discussed at length at the dialogue, featuring Vicky Tauli-Corpuz (Executive Director, Tebtebba) and Scott Poynton (Executive Director, The Forest Trust).
(03/23/2011) The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism is supposed to be the great hope for saving the world’s forests. Advocates say REDD — now known as REDD+ — could finally create financial incentives for keeping forests standing instead of chopping them down for timber, pulp and paper, cattle, palm oil, and rubber. At the same time, REDD could generate benefits for the rural poor, while safeguarding biodiversity and other ecosystem services. But the devil is in the details. Ensuring that REDD is properly designed, funded, and implemented means that progress has been slower than some supporters have hoped. A poorly designed REDD may be worse than no REDD at all. So where does that leave REDD now? Mongabay asked John-O Niles, the Director of the Tropical Forest Group, for his thoughts on the current status of REDD policy.
(09/27/2010) One of the biggest ideas in the conservation world over the past decade is Payments for Environmental Services, known as PES, whereby governments, corporations, or the public pays for the environmental services that benefit them (and to date have been free), i.e. carbon, biodiversity, freshwater, etc. For example, Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is the largest such proposed PES concept, yet many others are emerging. However, a new study in mongabay.com’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science argues that in order for PES to be effective—and not perversely lead to further harm—decision-makers must consider the danger of paying industrial and commercial interests versus financially supporting local populations, as originally conceived, to safeguard the environment.
(09/07/2010) Forest carbon payment programs like the proposed reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism could put pressure on wildlife-friendly farming techniques by increasing the need to intensify agricultural production, warns a paper published this June in Conservation Biology. The paper, written by Jaboury Ghazoul and Lian Pin Koh of ETH Zurich and myself in September 2009, posits that by increasing the opportunity cost of conversion of forest land for agriculture, REDD will potentially constrain the amount of land available to meet growing demand for food. Because organic agriculture and other biodiversity-friendly farming practices generally have lower yields than industrial agriculture, REDD will therefore encourage a shift toward from more productive forms of food production.
(06/03/2010) Last week the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program received a jump start with a four billion US dollar pledge from a number of industrialized nations. Under REDD tropical forest nation will be paid to keep forests standing, however the program—as it currently stands—has provoked concern over the rights of the some 350 million people living in or adjacent to forests. The Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change, a coalition of some 100 organizations from 38 countries, has released a report outlining an alternative vision of REDD that would uphold the rights of local and indigenous people while protecting forests.