Lessons for REDDplus: A comparative analysis of the German discourse on forest functions and the global ecosystem services debate
This paper compares the historic German discourse on forest functions with the current international debate on ecosystem services and analyzes the factors that may have triggered or inhibited the development and the institutionalization of both underlying concepts and subordinate debates. Ultimately, this comparison aims at drawing conclusions for the present debate on the currently negotiated REDDplus mechanism which can be considered as a major effort to upscale payments for environmental services.
Both discourses show some remarkable similarities — despite their diverging spatial foci, cultural backgrounds, and eras of origin. Similarities include the utilitarian concepts of nature used, the functions or services considered, and the ongoing challenge of valuing and monetizing them. However, there are also fundamental differences in regard to property rights and assumptions on the harmony of forest functions, respectively apparent and potential trade-offs between different ecosystem services for which the current discourse promotes market-based governance approaches as the mean of choice to balance competing interests of stakeholders.
In terms of current policy debates as on REDDplus, the focus on one particular ecosystem service – here the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions – shows significant analogies to the historic forest functions discourse in which timber production was seen as the main function that inherently ensures the delivery of all other functions. With regard to the considerable risks resulting for biodiversity and other ecosystem services from such a mono-functional focus we argue that any market-based approach to REDDplus should be accompanied by comprehensive international and national regulatory policies and foster the implementation of effective safeguards.