REDD+ challenges show reality on the ground

OSLO, Norway (28 June, 2011)_The challenges that REDD+ projects are currently facing, including preventing corruption in REDD-related finance and addressing pushback from constituencies for business-as-usual, are signs that the scheme is assuming some reality on the ground and proponents should keep advancing efforts to protect forests, said Frances Seymour yesterday.
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Photo by Tim Cronin/CIFOR

OSLO, Norway (28 June, 2011)_The challenges that Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) projects are currently facing, including preventing corruption in REDD-related finance and addressing pushback from constituencies for business-as-usual, are signs that the scheme is assuming some reality on the ground and proponents should keep advancing efforts to protect forests, said Frances Seymour, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“If REDD were not getting some traction we wouldn’t have to worry about these risks,” said Seymour, speaking at the Oslo REDD+ Exchange conference hosted  by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation last week.

As REDD+ policies begin to challenge the status quo, Seymour warned that constituencies need to develop resilience to overcome “inevitable setbacks,” such as the proposed changes to Brazil’s Forest Code which will threaten the protection of Amazonian rainforests, and the highly criticized Indonesian logging moratorium, which omits secondary forests.

This resistance to change reflects the fact that the implementation of REDD+ has, in many cases, become a political struggle, rather than an environmental one.

“The many changes to regulations and institutions that will allow REDD+ to work must involve politicians,” said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Head of the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight in Indonesia.

The push against REDD+, he said, stems from how the scheme is challenging current development models fueled by natural resource extraction and land use change. “Exploitation of natural resources is the lowest hanging fruit,” and to moderate such easy source of revenue is “not a pleasant choice for the government.”

Recognising a need for change, Norway’s Minister of Environment and International Development Erik Solheim recently called for countries and governments to be “brave” and act. He commended Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s commitment to cut emissions by 26% from business-as-usual levels by 2020 and Brazil’s unprecedented success of reducing the rate of deforestation by 70% as some examples of what countries could do.

At the national level,  REDD+ is also facing other challenges. Preliminary results from CIFOR’s ongoing Global Comparative Study on REDD+, a four-year study in 11 countries, show that the policy formulation process is often not yet based on rigorous analysis and quantification of the costs and benefits of switching from business-as-usual to REDD+. Land tenure problems and the challenges of collaboration between ministries related to forest and land use, such as agriculture and mining, as well as between central and local governments were also commonly found.

Research results and lessons learned from the ground should be used to inform mid-course corrections to the implementation and design of REDD+ projects, rather than to confirm cynicism that it cannot be done, Seymour said. “The biggest risk of all would for REDD to stall out, dooming all of us – including the vulnerable communities that we profess to care about — to a future that is truly unthinkable.”

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