Equity issues in REDD+

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Summary

Policies to control greenhouse gas emissions from tropical deforestation and degradation have become a major focus of international climate change negotiations over the last five years. This has been driven by a number of different interests, including (Peskett and Yander, 2010): the large volume of emissions associated with tropical land use change; low estimates of the costs of tackling deforestation drivers, making it a potentially cost effective solution; and the possibility of creating new international financial incentive mechanisms (potentially linked to carbon markets) that could provide new sources of finance to the global south. Furthermore, forestry professionals around the world have recognised the opportunity to secure unprecedented levels of finance for reforms of forest governance and management in developing countries. No formal mechanism for 'reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation‘ (REDD+) yet exists at the international level, but agreement was reached in recent UNFCCC talks in Cancun (COP16) on the principles of operation. International interest has also spawned a large number of demonstration activities and voluntary efforts in about fifty countries1. While the debate about REDD+ has historically been highly technical (around issues such as how to measure and monitor greenhouse gas emissions from forests), the equity implications at country level have become one of the most controversial areas, as the way in which technical rules are established could have a large impact on which countries win and which lose in terms of potential new financial flows. Indeed, concerns over the perceived inequity that would result from a focus on avoided deforestation alone has been one of the main factors behind the expanding scope of the mechanism, from RED, at COP11 in 2005, to REDD+ at Cancun in 2010, which covers reduced forest degradation as well as the 'plus‘ elements of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. Concerns about who the winners and losers may be at local level have also become more prominent in the debate, particularly as countries and international organisations have moved into a phase of trying to design demonstration projects.  These concerns have fuelled a growing demand, particularly among civil society organisations, for robust standards, or 'safeguards‘, for equity in decision-making and benefit distribution processes specifically in the context of REDD+. This paper forms one of a series of initial papers for the ESPA  project conference 'Safeguarding local equity as global values of ecosystem services rise‘. It is intended to give a broad outline of key equityrelated issues of concern in the REDD+ debate in order to help prioritise areas for assessment in the ESPA  project field case studies.  In the first section we give an overview of what REDD+ is and the general equity concerns it raises as a mechanism for protecting forests and climate change mitigation. We then move on to look at how some of the key processes in the REDD+ debate are approaching the issue of equity in practice,  using the framework provided in  McDermott et al. (2011)  as a guide to analysis. The final part of the paper draws some broader insights into whether the REDD+ debate raises equity issues that are distinct from other natural resource sectors.

Authors

Peskett, Leo
Vickers, Ben
Graham, Kirsty