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Debating REDD+and its implications:
reply to Angelsen et al.
Robert Fletcher,1Wolfram Dressler,2Bram B¨
uscher,1and Zachary R. Anderson3
1Sociology of Development and Change, Wageningen University, De Leeuwenborch, Hollandseweg 1, 6707 KN, Wageningen,
2School of Geography, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia
3Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto, 100 St. George Street, Room 5047, Toronto, ON M55 3G3, Canada
We appreciate Angelsen et al.’s (2017) response to our
Diversity piece (Fletcher et al. 2016) in which we aimed
to inspire just this sort of serious public discussion about
how to address the implications of the widespread failure
of REDD+to realize its original ambition to develop a
global market for conservation funding. That most of the
response’s authors represent the Center for International
Forestry Research (CIFOR), one of the main centers for
investigation of REDD+and related issues, makes their
confirmation that a “global carbon market has not mate-
rialized and is unlikely to emerge” especially important.
Equally significant is Angelsen et al.’s affirmation that, in
practice, REDD+has largely evolved “into a light form
of result-based aid,” with the “tiny segment” comprising
“payments for verified emission reductions from the vol-
untary carbon market” being “about the only genuine MBI
[market-based instrument] left” of the envisioned global
Yet, there are important elements of our original anal-
ysis that we believe they either overlooked or misinter-
preted. We hope to publish a more thorough analysis
soon. In the meantime, here, we seek to clarify briefly
several key issues in the interest of moving the discussion
The Nature of Payments for Ecosystem Services
One of Angelsen et al.’s main points is that we misun-
derstand the nature of payments for ecosystem services
(PES). Although REDD+is of course not synonymous
with PES, its development was strongly informed by
PES logic. Angelsen et al. claim we assert that PES requires
Paper submitted January 2, 2017; revised manuscript accepted March 7, 2017.
that “extractive companies (or local forest users) have to
be compensated for the external costs they cause,” in
which case “the company gets an additional benefit from
imposing such costs on others and therefore needs more
This is certainly not what we argue. Our central point
is that there seems to be an inherent contradiction in
the PES logic that has informed REDD+development
in terms of the basic disjuncture between the source
and aim of payments. Although buyers pay only to off-
set their emissions, sellers need their entire opportunity
costs covered. Hence, basic dynamics of supply and de-
mand seem grossly mismatched in this ostensive market.
As far as we can tell, this fundamental issue of PES design
has never been identified or addressed directly and is
likely the reason that, like REDD+, in practice most PES
programs have largely failed to function as the MBIs they
were envisioned to be (Wunder 2015; Fletcher & B¨
2017). Thus, it is not just that “[t]he PES approach has
been less universally viable than mainstream REDD+ac-
tors had initially hoped”; rather, it is that PES, like the
REDD+mechanism modeled on it, has become a very
different entity than originally envisioned. Although it
is certainly true that a company “would only need to
be compensated for the loss of profit related to switch-
ing to more environmentally benign practices” such as
sustainable forestry, in our experience this is a minor
aspect of the overall REDD+landscape, which focuses
mostly on forest conservation (Turnhout et al. 2017).
In this case, to compete on market terms, payments
would indeed need to match, or exceed, the full po-
tential profits lost when other land-use opportunities are
foregone. This is the opportunity cost side of the PES
Conservation Biology, Volume 00, No. 0, 1–3
2017 Society for Conservation Biology
DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12934
2Debating REDD+
The other side is that even if PES and REDD+can out-
compete conventional production, this would still not
be enough to make it the environmentally and socially
beneficial (i.e., sustainable) practice that many propo-
nents desire. Making REDD+function in this way would
require generating even more resources to fill the gap
between competitive market payments and truly sustain-
able livelihoods.
Consider Costa Rica’s national PES program, widely
considered a model for global best practice, and the
country’s nascent REDD+initiative (Fletcher & Breitling
2012). Payments for forest conservation—the program’s
main aim—are far below what most participants can earn
through alternate land use such as production of palm
oil (Fletcher 2012). Hence, the program relies on a legal
prohibition on land-use change for which payments serve
as something of a “quid pro quo” rather than an actual
incentive for conservation (Pagiola 2008:9). And even
though activities such as palm-oil production are more
lucrative than PES, they still do not generally provide
more than a base subsistence living (Beggs & Moore
2013). Hence, many forest owners must rely on cheap
food and other products that have their own social and
environmental costs.
For PES to not only outcompete palm-oil profits, but
also support an adequate standard of healthy living would
thus require generating even more funding to cover these
extra costs. To stay directly competitive with alternate
land use, by contrast, would require PES itself to ex-
ternalize social and environmental costs that must be
borne elsewhere for the program to survive (Lohmann
2014). For instance, the program does not account for
emissions caused by representatives driving to PES field
sites or the relatively low salaries these representatives
receive. And even so, funding barely keeps pace with
growing demand and relies on grants and loans from the
World Bank and other organizations whose own funding
entails externalization of various costs. Where program
funding comes directly from the profits of conventional
production, even relatively benign activities such as bev-
erage manufacturing, this revenue is itself at least partially
generated through externalization of social and environ-
mental impacts only some of which are addressed in the
offset payments themselves.
These are the issues we sought to call attention to.
Although REDD+cannot be expected to address all
these alone, they are important considerations in terms
of the mechanism’s contribution to a truly sustainable
Thinking Globally and Acting Locally
Beyond such misunderstandings, however, Angelsen
et al. neglect to directly address the main aims of our
intervention. Rather than debating the precise nature
of REDD+, we primarily sought to call attention to the
implications of the challenges it has faced, both for
communities targeted for REDD+implementation and
for conservation strategies more generally. Starting with
the latter point, we suggested taking this moment to
rethink the current trajectory of the global conservation
movement generally. Notwithstanding the vicissitudes of
REDD+, after all, further market engagement continues
to be promoted widely. Since Fletcher et al. (2016) was
published, for instance, the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature held its 2016 World Conservation
Congress (WCC), where a main topic of discussion was
the intensification of market-based approaches under
the banner of “natural capital valuation” (B¨
uscher &
Fletcher 2016). In support of this approach, many of the
world’s most influential conservation organizations came
together at the WCC to form a Coalition for the Private
Investment in Conservation (
capital-protocol-presented-at-iucn-wcc/) to build on
the newfound campaign, highlighted in our original
commentary, to promote conservation as a distinct
“asset class” within conventional financial markets. It
is this trajectory, of which REDD+is only a small and
increasingly insignificant piece, which we sought to
highlight and question. We hope that Angelsen et al. and
others will take this issue up in the future as well.
Finally, Angelsen et al. devote scant attention to what
most inspired our original commentary: Our concern that
rural communities around the world promised REDD+
benefits would be left hanging if the mechanism fails
and hence that both their own development aspirations
and the prospects of their support for future conserva-
tion interventions would be shattered in the process. If
“[i]mplementers of REDD+clearly attempt to involve
local people in REDD+and to promote equitable out-
comes” (Angelsen et al.) then, we hope that they will
also consider our plea to address the consequences of
REDD+funding shortfalls for affected local people.
Sharing the Wealth
Our original engagement with these issues was not, as
Angelsen et al. contend, to advance mere “devolution
of rights to local people” as yet another “single, one-
dimensional solution.” Rather, we sought to shift the
focus to the overarching political economy of conserva-
tion funding and implementation. Had space permitted,
we would have expanded on our brief observation that
transferring rights locally with redistributive elements (in
the form of commons) is not necessarily synonymous
with community-based natural resource management ini-
tiatives, which rarely grant communities the autonomy,
politically or economically, to effectively manage and
control their own resources (Dressler et al. 2010). Hence,
Conservation Biology
Volume 00, No. 0, 2017
Fletcher et al. 3
their efforts to do so must be supported by political action
to promote community interests in the face of compet-
ing claims on their resources often exerted by power-
ful multinational extractive enterprises and other actors.
Likewise, communities must be provided with sustain-
able funding streams that do not require them to submit
to competitive global markets in which they have little
power. New initiatives must be promoted that explicitly
shift the dominant focus away from market engagement
toward a dramatic redistribution in access and control
of existing resources. Indeed, it was the emergence of
critical voices within civil society calling for social safe-
guards that helped shape the current extra-market forms
of both REDD+and PES programs. If in practice REDD+
thus contributes to the “incipient mobilization of forces
to effectively contain business-as-usual interests, includ-
ing the use of command-and-control tools rather than
incentives” (Angelsen et al.), then this effort should be
continued. As we asserted, the task now is to build on this
base to develop policy measures that embody an equally
explicit acknowledgment that the future of conservation
in general lies not in expanding markets but in better
sharing the wealth we already have.
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... The debate on the extent to which REDD+ is failing continues to rage in the critical literatures on conservation and development (Fletcher et al. 2016, Lund et al. 2017, Massarella et al. 2018, environmental policy , Fletcher et al. 2017, Hook 2019a) and REDD+, more broadly (Enrici and Hubacek 2018). For , REDD+ is best understood not as a market-based policy but as results-based aid, a distinction that preserves space for the market to be seen a viable option for supporting environmental conservation. ...
... In contrast to this view of REDD+ as results-based aid masquerading as a market-based mechanism , Hook 2019a), Fletcher et al. (2017 link REDD+'s failure to the inability of conservation markets to replace those tied to extractive activities, such as mining. They note that REDD+ has fueled an 'economy of expectations ' (Borup, 2006in Fletcher et al. 2016 that promises elusive future benefits, leading stakeholders and communities to accept small steps in its general direction (Fletcher et al. 2018). ...
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This paper demonstrates what the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative would have to do to satisfy the expectations of its diverse, local stakeholders. It connects the unmet expectations of REDD+ with a deepening reliance on extractive activity in the Guiana Shield. In it, I argue that extractive activity, which has always been the most significant driver of deforestation in the ecoregion, is further overtaking REDD+’s capacity for meeting expectations and development aspirations due to the combined failure of REDD+ to deliver vast amounts of promised funding to alter unsustainable development paths and the subsequent announcements of major oil discoveries in the territorial waters of the Guiana Shield. These arguments are based on data collected in the early phases of REDD+ readiness through a multi-sited ethnography, analyzed through a combination of Foucauldian discourse analysis and governmentality. I use critical discourse analysis to represent REDD+’s regional interpretations and governmentality to tease out the expectations embedded in these discourses. This combination supports my identification of what REDD+ would have to accomplish to be deemed successful in Guyana and Suriname, the only two REDD+ participating countries entirely within the Guiana Shield. In turn, this identification improves understandings of the relationship between failed or failing conservation and development initiatives and the subsequent intensification of extractive activity.
... Although, this notion of fad is being criticised by others who place the responsibility for its failures on implementation shortcomings. As there is urgent need for conservation that is both environmentally and socially sustainable [64][65][66], what is to be done? ...
... Markets and profit-making mechanisms are ill-suited to carry those. As Fletcher et al. (2017) suggested, we need global commitment to sustainable sources of funding without a competitive process, which can assist local communities in obtaining the rights over resources, and assists them in covering the costs of establishing and implementing community-based forest management [65]. ...
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Governments, multilateral organisations, and international conservation NGOs increasingly frame nature conservation in terms that emphasise the importance of technically managing and economically valuing nature, and introducing markets for ecosystem services. New mechanisms, such as REDD+, have been incorporated in national-level policy reforms, and have been piloted and implemented in rural project settings across the Global South. By reflecting on my research on REDD+ implementation in two case study villages in Tanzania, the paper argues that the emergence and nature of market-based conservation are multi-faceted, complex, and more profoundly shaped by structural challenges than is commonly acknowledged. The paper identifies three particularly important challenges: the politics surrounding the establishment of community-based forest management; the mismatch between formal governance institutions and actual practices on the ground; and the fickleness of income from carbon sales and alternative livelihood opportunities. I argue that these challenges are not merely teething troubles, but they question fundamental assumptions of market-based conservation, more generally. I end with reference to better ideas for achieving sustainable development.
... The failure of the market to provide significant funds for forest conservation (Angelsen et al. 2017;Fletcher et al. 2017Fletcher et al. , 2016Sunderlin et al. 2015) is particularly true in the DRC, where the vast majority of the REDD+ financing comes from multilateral funds and programmes. This echoes similar analyses of REDD+ and payments for environmental services all over the world (Fletcher and Breitling 2012;Milne and Adams 2012), and is more generally in line with neoliberal conservation literature arguing for theillusoryefficacy of market-based conservation mechanisms to address environmental problems (for example, McAfee 2015McAfee , 2014Fletcher et al. 2014;Fletcher and Breitling 2012;Carrier and West 2009;Büscher and Dressler 2007). ...
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Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is an international mechanism linked to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It has been described in the field of political ecology as the panacea of neoliberal nature conservation policies, in particular though the decreasing role of the state in the definition and implementation of forest policies in favour of market-based-mechanisms and nongovernmental actors. The article explores the links between the privatisation of forest conservation and national sovereignty in the context of limited statehood through a case study in the Mai Ndombe province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It proposes an original approach combining African political anthropology with Franz Neumann’s political economy analyses of the power of authoritarian states. It argues that this model of forest conservation uses carbon accounting and results-based payment, which privileges private actors for the design and implementation of REDD+ activities; it also paradoxically strengthens Congelese state legitimacy.
... This includes contribution to debates on conservation fads (c.f. Fletcher et al. 2016;Angelsen et al. 2017;Fletcher et al. 2017). Through analysis of pilot projects I have identified some key factors that contribute to the rise and fall of conservation and development fads, including the gaps identified between assumptions and realities. ...
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Pilot projects are used as tools to test new solutions to global environment and development concerns including climate change and natural resource management. They are framed as mechanisms that provide evidence of 'what works' in order to improve policy and practice. However, despite the widespread use of pilot projects, their dynamics, impacts and implications are not well studied. Drawing on political ecology, social anthropology, science and technology studies, social justice theory, and policy studies literature, this thesis critically explores the phenomenon of pilot projects using a case study of REDD+ in Tanzania. An interpretivist-constructivist, actor-based approach to research is taken, using ethnographic data that includes over 150 narrative interviews with conservation and development professionals and actors involved in district and village-level pilot projects. Findings are presented in three analytical chapters. The first unpacks the relationship between pilot projects, policy and practice. A contradiction is identified between the design of the pilot projects as experimental and outside of the constraints of existing institutions, and the ability of the projects to have meaningful, longer-term influence. The second analytical chapter explores the complex dynamics and implications of expectations in pilot projects, identifying a trade-off between fully piloting new initiatives and raising expectations. The final analytical chapter uses a recognition justice lens to explore pilot project evaluations, finding that the ways of knowing, values and perspectives of some actors are discursively reproduced through the process, excluding and delegitimizing alternative perspectives. These results contribute to critical debates on international environment and development policy and practice by arguing that rather than delivering innovation and learning, pilot projects reproduce and reinforce the status quo. As such, this thesis reconceptualises pilot projects as agents of social change that cannot be contained within project objectives and timelines. This has significant implications for the continued use of pilot projects and raises questions about responsibility and accountability for their outcomes.
... Why the disconnect between concept and practice? The continued, sometimes fierce, debate about REDD+ (Fletcher et al. 2016(Fletcher et al. , 2017Angelsen et al. 2017) and its failure to provide significant emission reduction results so far (Seymour and Angelsen 2012;Sunderlin et al. 2017;Counsell 2018) suggests there are ...
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Key messages • Information use throughout the REDD+ policy process is influenced by interests of powerful agents of deforestation and forest degradation. Actors have different capacities and resources to access, process and provide information, as well as to contribute to policy decisions about REDD+. • Information on direct drivers and underlying causes of tropical forest change is improving with new technologies and data sources. However, guidance and (financial) support are needed to move from technical data to actionable information, and ultimately effective REDD+ interventions. • New information technologies offer new opportunities, but also come with diverse implications and new risks. National forest monitoring systems will need to address participation, transparency, accountability and coordination to counteract the differences in the capacities, resources and powers (decision- making or political) of various stakeholders.
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This article examines the (re)production of discourses and storylines in the process of policy translation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in Laos. Applying the concepts of policy discourses and policy translation, we first identify the prominent storylines at the various governance levels in Laos. Second, we compare and contrast these storylines with the global REDD+ discourses. Further, we discuss how different actors' capacities and political agendas shape REDD+ storylines at different levels of governance. We find that national and sub-national storylines portray REDD+ mainly as a tool for supporting Laos' forestry strategy and sustainable forest management; for capacity-building and donor funding; and for village forest management and education of villagers. At the village level, many see REDD+ as a project for various political elites and external actors to control forests and cheat villagers. We conclude that, while globally there is increasing attention to civic-environmentalism in REDD+, neoliberalist and techno-managerial discourses still dominate. At the village level, however, civic-environmentalist ideas, such as social safeguards, benefit sharing, and equity largely disappear and two opposing discourses emerge representing anti-civic ideas and REDD+ resentment. Furthermore, while techno-managerial ideas permeate all levels in Laos, neoliberalist ideas in terms of carbon trading are almost absent. During policy translation, REDD+ thus transforms into "just another" top-down development project. This serves the interest of Laos's techno-managerial elite well, but has little positive prospect for local people and forests. In this perspective, the lack of alternative discourse-coalitions promoting non-carbon benefits, social safeguards, and equity is striking. Key Words: REDD+, Laos, policy translation, environmental discourses, neoliberalism, civic environmentalism
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A core component of the Paris Agreement is reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). Originally envisioned as a form of payments for ecosystem services, REDD+ has played out in a myriad of ways on the ground. Examining the transition of REDD+ from theory to practice, this article provides an ethnographic account of local experiences with the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership in Indonesia. Challenges with the invisibility of “carbon” as a resource—both literally and figuratively—was a common theme as community members questioned the feasibility of carbon as a commodity and expressed concerns that if REDD+ did succeed, their land rights might be usurped by more powerful interests. Concurrent to REDD+, communities were navigating imminent threats from forest fires and oil palm expansion. Village government leaders saw REDD+ as a potential buffer against these threats, but due to a history of failed development interventions they proceeded carefully in REDD+. Because the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership was funded by bi-lateral aid, it was less susceptible to fluctuations in the carbon market but more vulnerable to changes in Australia’s administration and aid priorities, which ultimately led to the project’s closure in 2014. Since the project’s closure, villages have experienced the expansion of oil palm plantations onto community lands, and local forests and croplands have been engulfed in massive peatland fires—both threats that REDD+ was designed to confront. A key lesson from the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership is that if the international community wants to work with local communities to make a lasting impact, it is essential that their engagement be built upon commitment, transparency, and trust.
Forwarding an ecological dimension to the Murdoch school of political economy, this chapter examines environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change as inseparable parts of the political economy of Southeast Asian development. The chapter first reviews regional environmental indicators of biodiversity loss, air pollution, water degradation, deforestation, and climate change. It then explains this degradation as an intrinsic part of capitalist development in the region, driven by manufacturing, urbanisation, pollution, and increased resource-based production and exports. Finally, the chapter examines several examples of environmental governance efforts that have failed because they do not address the underlying mode of accumulation and fundamental social conflicts. The status quo direction of the region, the chapter concludes, is disastrous ecologically and socially.
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This article identifies an emerging faultline in critical geography and political ecology scholarship by reviewing recent debates on three neoliberal environmental governance initiatives: Payments for Ecosystem Services, the United Nations programme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries and carbon-biodiversity offsetting. These three approaches, we argue, are characterized by varying degrees of contextual and procedural – or superficial – difference, meanwhile exhibiting significant structural similarities that invite critique, perhaps even rejection. Specifically, we identify three largely neglected ‘social engineering’ outcomes as more foundational to Payments for Ecosystem Services, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries and carbon-biodiversity offsetting than often acknowledged, suggesting that neoliberal environmental governance approaches warrant greater critical attention for their contributions to advancing processes of colonization, state territorialization and security policy. Examining the structural accumulation strategies accompanying neoliberal environmental governance approaches, we offer the term ‘accumulation-by-alienation’ to highlight both the objective appropriations accompanying Payments for Ecosystem Services, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries and offsetting and the relational deficiencies accompanying the various commodifying instrumentalizations at the heart of these initiatives. We concur with David Harvey’s recent work proposing that understanding the iterative and consequential connections between objective/material and subjective/psychological dimensions of alienation offers ‘one vital key to unlock the door of a progressive politics for the future’. We conclude (with others) by urging critical geography and political ecology scholars to cultivate research directions that affirm more radical alternatives, rather than reinforcing a narrowing focus on how to improve Payments for Ecosystem Services, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries and offsetting in practice.
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Payments for Environmental Services (PES) emerged as a popular forest conservation policy across the Global South since the 1990s, first in Latin America and then elsewhere. PES aim to reduce deforestation and degradation by providing payments to participants conditional on forest protection. PES attracted much attention among policy-makers as a potentially cost-effective and efficient conservation alternative, and for their poverty-alleviation prospects when operating among ‘poor’ forest-dwellers. This rising agenda has been accompanied by significant scholarly efforts to understand PES and their socioenvironmental effects. However, such understandings have overlooked local stakeholder perspectives, and evaluations have mostly examined short-term effects. Thus, less is known about PES’ long-term effects, their determinants, and how local stakeholders perceive them. Using a multidisciplinary, multi-level, and dynamic livelihood approach combining geospatial and socioeconomic data collected from 2013-2017, this thesis helps to fill this gap by examining PES’ role in the broader livelihood strategies of six communities in the Mexican Lacandona Rainforest. The thesis makes three main contributions to PES literature. Methodologically, it presents a novel lens to understand PES effects, one that brings to the fore the voice of local stakeholders, while paying attention to evolving context and design aspects. Empirically, it shows that participants think about their livelihoods at broader temporal and spatial scales than short-term policies, which allows them to exert some control on the various policies they encounter. This longer-term thinking is reflected in the three analytical chapters in this thesis that examine how people engage with PES among other land uses, how communities devise payment distribution mechanisms, and how people combine multiple policies to pursue various goals. Conceptually, it shows that unless aspects of ‘context’, ‘design’, and ‘decision-making’ are examined simultaneously, PES’ manifold, multi-level, and evolving effects will not be sufficiently understood. Overall, the thesis shows that there are real implications for conceptualising rural development policy as an integrated ‘policy matrix’, instead of individual and self-contained policies.
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From its advent in 2005 within global climate change negotiations, reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and other forest-related activities (so-called REDD+) has been experimented with in developing country contexts for over a decade now, with a wide array of expectations coming to be associated with it. Three consecutive conceptualizations are identifiable: carbon-centered, where REDD+ is primarily a climate mitigation strategy; co-benefits-centered, where REDD+ becomes a triple win solution for climate, biodiversity and communities; and landscape-centered, where REDD+ activities are embedded in integrated sustainable land-use approaches. In assessing such evolving expectations against existing REDD+ experiences, a mixed picture emerges. Some expectations, specifically relating to forest carbon financing, are not being adequately met, while others, notably the delivery of co-benefits, hold out more promise. Yet this also highlights a potential paradox facing REDD+. While there is growing recognition that co-benefit generation is key, and that piece-meal, forest-carbon focused REDD+ interventions are unlikely to address the complex causes of tropical forest loss, forest carbon is still being foregrounded in measuring and reporting on REDD+ performance, and in generating results-based payments (even as these aspects remain challenging). This implies, however, that the future of REDD+ may lie not in one conceptualization coming to dominate, but rather in co-existence of heterogeneous practices. REDD+ may end up as a patchwork of projects and practices with different foci and financing mechanisms. Although this cannot prevent trade-offs, such a heterodox REDD+ may provide building blocks for the polycentric governance of the world's remaining tropical forests. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.
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Increasingly, one hears furtive whispers in the halls of conservation: "REDD+ is dead; it's time to cut our losses and move on." In a recent Conservation Biology editorial, Redford, Padoch and Sunderland (2013) identify REDD+ (Reduced Emissions through avoided Deforestation and forest Degradation) as one of the latest in a long line of conservation "fads," defined as "approaches that are embraced enthusiastically and then abandoned" (2013: 437). They caution: "we must take such fads more seriously, to work collectively to develop learning organizations. . .and study where new ideas come from. why they are adopted, why they are dropped, and what residual learning remains" (2013: 438). This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) has been on the ascendancy for several decades and plays a leading role in conservation strategies worldwide. Arriving out of a desire to rectify the human costs associated with coercive conservation, CBNRM sought to return the stewardship of biodiversity and natural resources to local communities through participation, empowerment and decentralization. Today, however, scholars and practitioners suggest that CBNRM is experiencing a crisis of identity and purpose, with even the most positive examples experiencing only fleeting success due to major deficiencies. Six case studies from around the world offer a history of how and why the global CBNRM narrative has unfolded over time and space. While CBNRM emerged with promise and hope, it often ended in less than ideal outcomes when institutionalized and reconfigured in design and practice. Nevertheless, despite the current crisis, there is scope for refocusing on the original ideals of CBNRM: ensuring social justice, material well-being and environmental integrity.
Costa Rica’s national payment for environmental services (PES) program has inspired a large body of research, most of which seeks to assess its impacts on deforestation and/or poverty. The specific forms of governance shaping the program, by contrast, have received much less attention. While the program, like PES in general, is commonly considered a paradigmatically neoliberal “market-based” conservation mechanism, its actual operation to date has deviated substantially from this description. Despite program planners’ express intent to establish self-regulating markets for the direct transfer of payments from consumers of ecosystem services to their producers, such markets have yet to become widespread, and the program remains supported primarily by strong state intervention in various forms. Thus, while the program’s ostensive success in combating deforestation has been widely praised, we suggest that its relative inability to establish a free-standing market to accomplish this aim may be equally instructive. For instance, the ambitious Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism envisioned to mitigate climate change on a global scale takes PES as one of its main sources of inspiration, a perspective that may be complicated by acknowledgment of such gaps between “vision” and “execution” in neoliberal conservation governance.
The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's HouseAudre Lorde (1983)ABSTRACT Recently, a number of prominent conservationists have declared the last quarter century of global efforts to unite conservation and development through so-called integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs) an overwhelming failure, asserting that there are likely to be irreconcilable trade-offs between environmental preservation and enhancing human well-being that future policy will have to take into account. I suggest, however, that such trade-offs may be less an inherent feature of the world than an artefact of the neoliberal governance model upon which the global conservation movement increasingly relies, as embodied in the ICDP approach. In eschewing questions of resource redistribution and instead depending on economic growth to address social inequality, neoliberal conservation strategies often paradoxically force into opposition the very conservation and development interests they ostensibly seek to reconcile. This thesis is illustrated through discussion of Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula, a celebrated biodiversity hotspot where conservation interventions increasingly emphasize neoliberal market mechanisms designed to incentivize preservation by demonstrating the economic value of in situ natural resources.