November 21, 2012

Saving REDD+ from Death By a Thousand Complaints

This week’s Blog posts have focused on policies and financing mechanisms to align agricultural development and climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. Since it’s inception in 2008, the UN program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) has come under heavy criticism. At the same time, it is one of the few opportunities currently underway that could enable and scale-up climate-smart agriculture around the world.

There is a grave risk, however, that rather than strengthen the program, the criticism of REDD+ will instead squander a massive opportunity to mobilize billions of dollars for green project finance in the developing world. There are real issues regarding the equitable and ethical deployment of REDD+, especially regarding land tenure, gender equity, indigenous rights, customs and legal systems, and monitoring, reporting and verification of actual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions. These criticisms have led to some intense opposition to REDD+ projects.

recent report from the Nature Conservancy indicates that, rather than spelling REDD+’s demise, REDD+ can in fact be seen as an opportunity to address these issues proactively and progressively. The report shows that some of the first and most durable benefits of REDD+ (or similar smaller-scale carbon sequestration programs) are supposed “secondary” benefits like tenure clarity, women’s empowerment, indigenous representation, and better understanding of traditional forest management strategies. In some cases there is even the opportunity to use REDD+ projects to initiate large-scale tenure reform or indigenous representation in formerly intractable countries. As the report states:

“investing in securing recognized management and land rights for forest-dependent communities, empowering communities to participate in land-use decision processes, and education programs will yield long-term social benefits. These investments in early phase benefits are “no regrets” in that they yield real, permanent improvements in well-being that will persist even if large-scale pay-for-performance schemes take a long time to materialize.”

In order to deliver these benefits, however, the Nature Conservancy report concludes that projects must be designed to target key stakeholders and activities with specially tailored incentives that motivate behavior change, while maximizing available financial resources at different levels. Projects must create and maintain legitimacy by giving stakeholders meaningful power to shape and participate in REDD+ programs, “including how benefits are generated and shared.” And programs must be aligned with government priorities in order to shift how government functions.

Through thoughtful and genuinely collaborative project design and implementation, and through strong standards among implementing NGOs, REDD+ projects can actively improve conditions for indigenous and local peoples, while veritably reducing emissions. The blueprint is there. This year’s UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Doha is the perfect time to recommit to doing REDD+ right.

The report does not address agriculture to a great extent, but there is increasing conversation around integrating agriculture into REDD. How can the lessons and recommendations from the report inform this next step?

Photo credit: ©Neil Palmer/CIAT
More In in Staying Current