Clarifying tenure rights is central to an effective and equitable REDD+ mechanism as it can help identify who the key REDD+ stakeholders are, who should participate in decision-making processes as well as who should obtain benefits. In turn, developing REDD+ can provide an opportunity to recognise customary rights and to empower local rights-holders. However, while clarifying tenure is crucial to REDD+’s success, it is also a challenging undertaking in countries where rights are often unclear, weakly enforced or in conflict with one another.
Lack of clarity on the identity of rights-holders and/or a lack of recognition of rights over land may lead to the exclusion of certain stakeholders from REDD+ planning and implementation. This carries the risk that REDD+ payments may not be allocated equitably. There is also a risk that unclear land tenure rights could incentivise corruption. Indeed, a lack of clear, recognised ownership could lead to land grabbing, either by national elites, or unscrupulous foreign investors (such as so-called ‘carbon cowboys’), leading to the displacement of communities. These factors all increase the risk of reversals or leakage of emissions and ultimately create an insecure environment for investors in REDD+. This can undermine the success of any national REDD+ scheme or payments for emission reductions.