Forest governance and climate policies

01 October 2009 | News story

Fred Stolle of the World Resources Institute looks at the need for REDD to address forest governance issues as well as creating market incentives.

Policy-makers are recognizing the essential role that the world’s remaining forests play in maintaining the global climate system. The political momentum generated by the Bali Action Plan under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will create a unique opportunity to put in place a framework of incentives that could curb deforestation, slow forest degradation, and improve the way forests are managed. To succeed, these incentives must strike at the main drivers of rampant deforestation and must also recognize the dependency of local communities on forest ecosystems for their livelihoods.

In the coming months, climate change negotiators have agreed to explore a mechanism for providing compensation for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries” (REDD). Under most REDD proposals, compensation would be financed by the sale of these emission reductions as ‘carbon offsets’ to be used by regulated countries or companies to remain within their emissions limits.

However, will the promise of money for carbon alone create the conditions necessary to counteract the drivers of deforestation?

If a REDD mechanism is to succeed, competing pressures on forests will need to be managed fairly and effectively. REDD needs to strike at the heart of the drivers, which are not always directly linked to markets, but are as often factors of problems such as illegal logging, bad planning, lack of law enforcement, the absence of tenure rights, the lack of accountability, the lack of coordination and capacity of institutions that manage forest resources and the loss of revenues and other governance factors.

It seems thus apparent that REDD will need to do more than create market incentives. To make REDD effective, efficient and capable of achieving lasting impacts, these governance issues need to be addressed. However, to make these difficult governance improvements countries will need assistance, while these improvements cannot be directly translated into reduced emissions and thus cannot be paid for by carbon credits. There is thus a need for a payment mechanism phase either in parallel or prior to a market mechanism, for REDD to be successful.

Although this phase could not be measured by tons of carbon removed, it is clear that such a phase needs to be measured (and reported and verified), not to fall into the same trap of general development assistance (ODA) over the last decades that has had a low percentage of success. The concept of this governance phase is getting more attention lately and one option of such a phase has been described recently in the Norwegian government -Meridian Institute Options Assessment Report (2009), as the ‘Implementation of policies and measures phase’.

To make this governance phase measurable and successful, governance indicators (qualitative and/or quantitative) need to be developed and agreed upon to be able to identify areas of improvement and hold governments accountable (both governments that supply funds and governments that receive funds). These indicators should cover a wide range of governance topics such as institutions, management, tenure, planning, etc.

Addressing climate change and especially deforestation worldwide will depend on the right incentives and the governance capacity to effectively use these incentives. To improve governance and ensure progress and accountability of governance, we need to develop measurable and agreed upon governance indicators.

This article is taken from issue 40 of arborvitae, the newsletter of IUCN’s Forest Conservation Programme;

This image shows the courtship behavior of Indian Bull frogs (Holobatrachus tigerinus). During the monsoon, the breeding males become bright yellow in color, while females remain dull. The prominent blue vocal sacs of male produce strong nasal mating call.