Reports & Analysis
CIFOR Releases “Realising REDD+”
The Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) recently released a comprehensive global review of current REDD+ research which shows the potential for REDD+ projects if countries embrace long and short-term policy reforms while learning from past lessons.
By Sarah Sharples, CIFOR
The 400-page report, which includes contributions from 59 researchers and policy experts from institutions in 19 countries, is the most comprehensive analysis of REDD+ to date and follows the success of last year’s CIFOR publication, Moving Ahead with REDD, which has been translated into five languages.
“Realising REDD+ goes one step further than our previous REDD book and considers what national policy changes are needed to implement a global mechanism to pay countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation,” says Frances Seymour, CIFOR’s Director General.
The book has five key messages:
- REDD+ must be transformational. REDD+ requires broad institutional and governance reforms, such as tenure, decentralization, and corruption control. These reforms will enable departures from business as usual, and involve communities and forest users in making and implementing policies that affect them.
- Policies must go beyond forestry. REDD+ strategies must include policies outside the forestry sector narrowly defined, such as agriculture and energy, and better coordinate across sectors to deal with non-forest drivers of deforestation and degradation.
- Performance-based payments are key, yet limited. Payments based on performance directly incentivize and compensate forest owners and users. But schemes such as payments for environmental services (PES) depend on conditions, such as secure tenure, solid carbon data and transparent governance, which are often lacking and take time to change.
- We must learn from the past. Many approaches to REDD+ now being considered are similar to previous efforts to conserve and better manage forests, often with limited success. Taking on board lessons learned from past experience will improve the prospects of REDD+ effectiveness.
- National circumstances and uncertainty must be factored in. Different country contexts will create a variety of REDD+ models with different institutional and policy mixes. Uncertainties about the shape of the future global REDD+ system, national readiness and political consensus require flexibility and a phased approach to REDD+ implementation.
“PES schemes have many advantages—the incentives for forest users are strong. Those responsible for cutting emissions are compensated directly. But there are many opportunities to make rapid progress with the REDD+ agenda that don’t depend on the long-term reforms required for PES programmes,” says Arild Angelsen, a CIFOR scientist, professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and the main editor of Realising REDD+.
The agricultural sector puts pressure on forests. Angelsen quotes IPCC estimates that 75 percent of deforestation is due to forest clearing for agriculture, which means REDD+ must focus on replacing policies that encourage farmers to expand into sparsely settled forested areas with policies that shift production to more intensively cultivated lands near urban areas.
“Most of what will be undertaken at the national and local levels has in fact been attempted before,” says Angelsen, adding that, “We can learn a lot by looking at what has worked and, equally important, what has not.”
Better REDD ‘imperfect’ than REDD ‘unrealised’
While the CIFOR report exhaustively explores the many challenges to using the REDD+ process to transform management of the endangered forests of the developing world, the report argues that action is needed despite the various uncertainties.
“We must balance the risk of taking action in less than perfect conditions against the risk of lost opportunities if we are too cautious,” says Seymour, adding that, “Designed appropriately, REDD+ has the potential to catalyze needed reforms, while protecting vulnerable communities. In a world facing catastrophic climate change, the risk of doing nothing is too great.”
The analyses presented in Realising REDD+ provide evidence for cautious optimism that REDD+ can indeed be realized in national institutions, policies and actions on the ground.
Copies of the book can be downloaded for free here.
Sarah Sharples is a multimedia Project Officer at The Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR, based in Bogor, Indonesia.