How can REDD reduce deforestation without addressing the causes of deforestation?
Any proposal to reduce deforestation must find a way of addressing the causes of deforestation. So if REDD is a serious attempt to reduce deforestation it must address the causes of deforestation. But a recent paper by three of CIFOR’s scientists found that causes of deforestation are not part of discussions about REDD.
The paper, titled “Governing the design of national REDD+: An analysis of the power of agency”, is written by Maria Brockhaus, Monica Di Gregorio, and Sofi Mardiah and is published in Forest Policy and Economics.
In an interview with CIFOR’s Forests News website, Monica Di Gregorio explains that,
“We found that although there is a lot of discussion about international issues with REDD+, such as who should pay for what, actors don’t talk much about national issues. State actors and powerful interests ostensibly support REDD+, but they tend to talk about it in a superficial and simplistic way, drawing on the rhetoric of it as a ‘win-win’ situation. They don’t really go into the reforms that are needed to make REDD+ happen.”
But it’s not just “state actors and powerful interests” that are avoiding discussion about the drivers of deforestation. Civil society is also not confronting the drivers of deforestation either, according to Brockhaus, Gregorio, and Mardiah, instead tending to focus on safeguards, protection of local rights, REDD “co-benefits”, how REDD+ will affect livelihoods, and participation in decision making.
The paper looks at three aspects of governance systems:
- the structural conditions in REDD+ policy arenas formed by institutional and policy path dependencies (the policy content);
- the agents operating in and constituting these arenas, their interests and their power in pursuing them; and
- the mechanisms these agents employ to influence the outcomes of REDD+ policy processes, such as their discursive practices.
The paper investigates how these three aspects are affecting national-level processes of REDD policy design in six countries: Brazil; Cameroon; Indonesia; Nepal; Papua New Guinea; and Vietnam. The paper asks two key questions:
- to what extent do policy discourses on REDD+ challenge existing business-as-usual scenarios of deforestation and call for transformational change? and
- what is the likely influence of the coalitions formed around these discourses? Using these questions, we assess the extent to which dominant and minority policy coalitions exercise agency and the implications for realising REDD+.
In the Abstract to the paper, the authors explain that,
The paper shows that policies both within and outside the forestry sector that support deforestation and forest degradation create path dependencies and entrenched interests that hamper policy change. In addition, most dominant policy coalitions do not challenge business-as-usual trajectories, reinforcing existing policy and political structures. No minority policy coalitions are directly tackling the root causes of deforestation and forest degradation, that is, the politico-economic conditions driving them. Instead they focus on environmental justice issues, such as calls for increased participation of indigenous people in decision-making.
Brockhaus, Gregorio, and Mardiah carried out an analysis of policy in each of the six countries and analysed print media articles about REDD between 2005 and 2010 in the three leading newspapers in each country. Between 2010 and 2012, they carried out a policy network analysis in the six countries.
The drivers of deforestation in five of the countries include agriculture (large or small scale), legal and illegal commercial logging, with cattle ranching being the main driver of deforestation in Brazil. Mining, infrastructure development and population movements and policies also have direct impacts on deforestation and degradation. Other, indirect, factors include tax and trade regimes, monetary policy and foreign debt.
In other words, addressing deforestation involves addressing cross-sectoral issues. The authors note that,
Failure to address cross-sectoral policy impacts, the political power structures reinforcing path dependencies leading to deforestation and forest degradation and the related shortcomings in implementation will undermine efforts to achieve transformational change.
When they looked at discourse coalitions in the media, the authors found that although most policy coalitions are supportive of REDD, they “do not engage with the reforms that are necessary to effect a shift towards transformational change”.
The fact that business interests often lobby behind the scenes, makes their influence difficult to see. In their paper, Brockhaus, Gregorio, and Mardiah write,
In some cases, resistance to change is institutionalised to the point that active lobbying is no longer necessary — these interests are already deeply entrenched in the state, which is reflected in political inaction and lack of policy debates on the key drivers of deforestation.
On the CIFOR website, Di Gregorio spells out the importance of the research:
“We know that to have effective REDD+ policies, you have to address the drivers of deforestation — there’ll be no emission reductions without that. It’s not enough just to set up projects, or to say ‘here’s a procedure’ and ‘here’s a mechanism.’ Implementing REDD+ means tackling some very challenging issues, but if they don’t talk about the real problem, they’re not going to be able to solve it.”