REDD+ in the spotlight

The CoCooR research project has produced a 17-min video where we disseminate some of the project’s findings and where some other scholars, practitioners and funders share their views about REDD+. Specifically, the video defines REDD+, highlights its main funding sources to date, and a number of experts reflect on the challenges of REDD+ policy design in the global South, and of early action implementation initiatives, as well as the framework’s main achivements to date and its likely future.

We think that the video can be very useful to teach about REDD+, or to foster a discussion about this policy framework with university students and other audiences outside high education and academia. Therefore, if you are interested in REDD+, forest conservation, or in environmental governance and policy more generally, please watch the video and help us disseminate it. Feel free to post comments about it in this blog, or to use the social media to spread the word. The video can be watched in You Tube.

Image copyright: SIAS, Nepal

REDD+ Crossroads Post Paris: Politics, Lessons and Interplays

Red goes well with Xmas, or so they say. So I’m pleased to share with you today, the outcome of a new special issue, guest edited with my former colleague at the University of East Anglia, Heike Schroeder. Over the past two years, we have put together a large collection of articles exploring the politics, the early lessons and the institutional interplays of REDD+ preparedness in developing countries. The collection is freely available through open access, and you can download all the contributions here.

The contributions to the special issue suggest, first, that REDD+ design in the studied countries has generally lacked social legitimacy and sidelined key actors who can considerably influence land-use sector dynamics. Second, they show that REDD+ early actions have tended to oversimplify local realities and have been misaligned and local needs. Third, REDD+ efforts have remained constrained to the forestry or climate mitigation policy sectors and have thus suffered from a lack of policy harmonization.

As REDD+ moves from its preparedness to its implementation phase, Heike and myself argue that more research efforts should be aimed at analysing the power relations that underpin and determine the design and implementation of REDD+ policies and actions, the potential for and limits to the vertical and horizontal coordination of land-use policies and management, and the processes of resistance to or accommodation of REDD+ practices on the ground. In doing so, we advocate for multi- and transdisciplinary research that does not take for granted the benefits of REDD+ and which critically scrutinizes the multiple goals of this ambitious international policy framework, and where it sits within the broader Paris Agreement implementation agenda.

Picture: Women in Chiapas, Mexico, carrying fuelwood. Their community participates in a carbon forestry project. © Esteve Corbera

Sowing the seeds of sustainable rural development?

This new article, in the journal Land Use Policy, is a closure of a five year research action project developed in Tanzania, under the leadership of the local NGO Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative (MCDI) and hosted by the University of East Anglia. MCDI has been promoting Participatory forest management (PFM) for a number of years now in south-eastern Tanzania, aiming to improve local forest governance, enhance resource conservation and to increase rural people’s access to and benefits from forest resources. Recently, MCDI also received climate finance support to enhance the impact of such PFM activities on climate change mitigation.

This action research was thus aimed at analysing governance and livelihood changes in MCDI efforts that have been topped-up through a REDD+ pilot. Based on qualitative governance analysis and quantitative livelihood panel data (2011–2014) that compares villages and households within and outside the project, we find that improvements to forest governance are substantial in project villages compared to control villages, while changes in income have been important but statistically insignificant, and driven by a regional sesame cash crop boom unrelated to enhanced forestry revenues. Focusing on whether PFM had enhanced other wealth indicators including household conditions and durable assets, our analysis shows again no significant differences between participant and control villages, although the participant villages do have, on average, a greater level of durable assets.

Overall, our findings are positive regarding forest governance improvements but inconclusive regarding livelihood effects, which at least in the short term seem to benefit more from agricultural intensification than forestry activities, whose benefits might become more apparent over a longer time period. In conclusion we emphasize the need for moving towards longer term monitoring efforts, improving understandings of local dynamics of change, particularly at a regional rather than community level, and defining the most appropriate outcome variables and cost-effective systems of data collection or optimization of existing datasets if we are to better capture the complex impacts of PFM initiatives worldwide.

This research was funded by NORAD and it also resulted in two other articles published in 2015 and early 2017. If you want to access the full version of these three articles, please contact me at esteve.corbera@uab.cat

PES and motivational crowding in Colombia

In a new article, led by UAB-ICTA’s PhD candidate Lina Moros, we adopt an innovative research design to test for motivational crowding effects through a forest conservation game in Colombia’s Amazon Piedmont, using individual, collective and crop-price premium economic incentives. We implement a post-experiment survey on different types of motivations based on Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to test for changes in motivations. Our findings show that all types of PES, except for the crop-price premium payment, increased conservation behavior in the experiment. However, not all types of payments affected motivations equally: collective payments enhanced social motivations to protect forests and the crop-price premium reduced intrinsic and guilt/regret related motivations. These findings contribute to disentangling the interaction between incentives, motivations and behaviors in a context of agricultural expansion and growing concern for forest conservation, commonly manifested through incentive-based conservation policies like REDD+ and local projects of Payments for Ecosystem Services.

Payments for Environmental Services: a theory-informed review

Building on a theory-based approach to synthesize research on the effectiveness of PES in achieving environmental objectives and socio-economic co-benefits, this article led by Jan Börner and published in World Development highlights the role of (1) contextual dimensions (e.g., political, institutional, and socio-economic conditions, spatial heterogeneity in environmental service values and provision costs, and interactions with pre-existing policies), and (2) scheme design (e.g., payment type and level, contract length, targeting, and differentiation of payments) in determining environmental and socio-economic outcomes. We also review counterfactual-based empirical evaluations, comparative analyses of case-studies, and meta-analyses. Our review suggests that program effectiveness often lags behind the expectations of early theorists. However, we also find that theory has advanced sufficiently to identify common reasons for why payment schemes fail or succeed. Moreover, payment schemes are often rolled out along with other policy instruments in so-called policy mixes. Advances in theory and evaluation research are needed to improve our understanding of how such policy mixes interact with the targeted social-ecological systems.

The full article can be found here, or requested by email if you don’t have access to the publishing journal.