Is REDD + an option for climate change, but problem for forest biodiversity and communities?

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


It looks like a solution for one of group of environmentalists can, sometimes, become a problem for another. Or so I learnt this afternoon at  a session that examined whether countries’ forest policies are promoting or hindering biodiversity conservation. The answer? Hindering.

The topic turned to REDD (Reduction of Deforestation and Degradation) – a mechanism under the UN that is  designed to use market and financial incentives in order to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation; and REDD+ which recognizes and rewards efforts at reforestation and afforestation.

REDD+ programmes could affect forest conservation and communities, caution some NGOs. Photo credit: ifad.org

According to conventional climate change policy wisdom, REDD and REDD+ can help reduce greenhouse gases and stem global warming.But at COP-11 on the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity; REDD and REDD+ were new villains. Participants from Brazil, Costa Rica, India and Venezuela shared experiences on how REDD and/or REDD+ policies are further marginalising forest communities and indigenous peoples; and leading to further erosion of biodiversity.

There is also concern over what is being described as ‘commercialisation of conservation’.

A group of non-government organisations (NOGs) and indigenous peoples organisations (IPOs) circulated a statement that says REDD+ as mechanism “suffers from a large number of inherent risks and problems which cannot be remedied”.

Hiking the economic value of forests through performance payments for forest conservation will lead to increased conflict over land between traditional communities and the economically and politically influential group.

Performance-based payments fail to address several direct and indirect drivers of forest loss, such a slack of recognition of land rights of indigenous people; over-consumption and trade in forest products; and “perverse” incentives such as subsidies for export crops and monoculture plantations, it says.

Many countries ignore free and prior informed consent of indigenous peoples, and many companies are also using REDD+ projects to offset for their exploitation of natural resources.

I also gather there is a new breed of “carbon cowboys” running amok in Papua New Guinea, Peru and elsewhere, “conning communities into signing away their land rights”; and that “REDD+ may be the biggest land grab of all time”.

Is there something in what they are warning about cowboys and landgrabs?

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 

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