Mexico is working at the national, state and local levels to design ways of sharing REDD+ benefits that suit different contexts and improve livelihoods
IUCN & REDD+ series: On the road to Paris and beyond
In the lead up to the Paris Climate Change Conference in December (UNFCCC COP21), IUCN’s Global Forest and Climate Change Programme is publishing a series of articles highlighting the innovative steps developing countries are taking to equitably share the benefits from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancing forest carbon stocks – activities commonly known as ‘REDD+’. Beyond COP21, this article series will continue to highlight the challenges and opportunities of setting up equitable REDD+ benefit sharing arrangements in tropical countries.
The concept is clear: if a decision-making process for national REDD+ benefit sharing effectively engages subnational and local levels, it can help maintain the legitimacy of REDD+ and lead to solutions suited to different local contexts. Now, Mexico’s federal government is putting this concept into practice. The country is creating a national fund to receive payments from international sources for the reduction of emissions from REDD+ activities, and this fund will in turn distribute payments vertically from the federal level to states.
Benefits then distributed horizontally by states to local level constituencies could be either monetary or non-monetary, allocated based on efforts made to address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, reduce barriers to sustainable natural resource management, and support sustainable rural development.
Local stakeholders have the opportunity to develop their own investment plans that specify how they intend to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. Multi-stakeholder committees will be formed at the state level to select investment plans based on state-level REDD+ strategies, guided by the federal government. Safeguards will guide the development and implementation of investment plans, government policies and benefit sharing. These efforts are allowing Mexico to connect national REDD+ benefit sharing arrangements all the way to local stakeholder investment plans and actions.
“A local investment plan should be an instrument that allows communities to agree with government agencies and civil society as a whole on their sustainable development proposals to strengthen local management, add incentives and economic support,” says Rafael Obregón, Director General of Biological Corridors, Mexico’s National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), adding that, “these plans will need to identify key challenges and find diversified solutions.”
REDD+ and Mexico’s integrated development strategy
In Mexico, REDD+ is already being integrated into existing sustainable rural development and landscape management schemes. The country has adopted an approach to benefit sharing that focuses on livelihood improvements with the aim of motivating local stakeholders to sustainably manage natural resources.
In REDD+ pilots on the Yucatan Peninsula, CONABIO (Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad) and the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR, Comisión Nacional Forestal) are supporting communities in land-use planning, conservation, sustainable forest management, agroforestry and silvopastoral management. These two commissions are promoting multi-purpose uses of forests, including ecotourism, with the aim of diversifying and improving the incomes of local producers and communities while ensuring the conservation of forests and their biodiversity.
The approach in the Yucatan Peninsula also assists community producers and enterprises in engaging with certification schemes (e.g., the Forest Stewardship Council and Fair Trade), to increase their access to better-paying markets. Carbon payments are being discussed as an additional benefit that landowners would receive if they manage their lands sustainably and remain committed to the goals of national and subnational REDD+ programs.
This integrated development approach is designed to encourage the adoption of strategies that combine carbon-enhancing forest management with livelihood improvement, while minimising people’s expectations of large carbon-related payouts. The use of an integrated conservation and development approach at the landscape level has the potential to improve livelihoods in local communities while delivering many environmental benefits, including carbon sequestration.
Challenges in Mexico’s decentralised, integrated approach
Stakeholders at various levels have called for more proactive action to properly address gender equality in REDD+ decision making and benefit sharing. In the absence of strong land ownership by women, questions remain about how their contribution to forest management and restoration will be adequately compensated. To address this, Mexico is currently developing a gender and REDD+ action plan (PAGeREDD+) for the Yucatan Peninsula that will make recommendations for gender inclusion in the implementation of REDD+ benefit sharing in the project area.
There are similar concerns about how avecindados and posesionarios (individuals who do not have land tenure rights) will access REDD+ benefits. Despite making up a considerable proportion of the population (between 30 and 50 per cent), avecindados and posesionarios might have no claim to benefits since they have no official rights to the communal forests, no vote in land-use decisions and in the case of avecindados, no land themselves.
Stakeholders have also underscored the pressing need to clarify rights to carbon credits as well as the linkages between Mexico’s jurisdictional-level governance structures and local institutions. Without a better understanding of both, it will remain challenging to design REDD+ benefit sharing structures to suit different geographical scales and local contexts.
To properly integrate REDD+ benefit sharing into broader approaches, stakeholders have highlighted the need to better frame REDD+ payments (and non-monetary benefits, including employment, biodiversity conservation and education) as an incentive for land users to engage in sustainable natural resource management that contributes to climate change mitigation.
This article is based on excerpts and case studies from The Forests Dialogue’s 2014 Review, “Country Options for REDD+ Benefit Sharing- Insights from TFD’s Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue Initiative”.
The REDD+ benefit sharing examples and lessons featured in this article series come from country experiences of two ongoing IUCN projects: the REDD+ Benefit Sharing Project funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB); and the Toward Pro-Poor REDD+ (Phase II) project, promoting rights-based approaches to strengthen the conservation, governance and sustainable management of landscapes in Cameroon, Ghana, Guatemala, Papua Province of Indonesia, and Uganda, funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).