REDD+: a win-win deal is possible!

With the dusk of the International Year of Forests fast approaching, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, sustainable forest management, conservation and enhancement of carbon stocks (REDD+) has the potential to bring positive changes to the lives of people who are dependent on forests for their livelihoods. But this can only happen if REDD+ is implemented in a way that ensures their participation in the process.

How and when people are engaged in the REDD+ process will define whether it will be a win-win or a win-lose deal for them. Entrenching social and environmental safeguards in the readiness process will ensure win-win solutions for investors, local communities and the society at large. 

Footing the bill

But, given the limited resources, how is this done? It is a commonly accepted fact that public financing alone will not foot the annual bill. According to the Climate change: Financing Global Forests review it will reach US $17 – 33 billion and this UNEP Finance Initiative report says it could reach US $ 40 billion. These funds are needed to support investment in comprehensive and integrated land use planning processes and sectoral policy coordination. These processes are fundamental for reducing emissions while contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, such as reducing hunger and poverty.

The private sector could play a much bigger role in closing the financial and technical gaps that need filling in order to implement REDD+. However, as suggested in this UNEP report, the  private sector’s business approach can often undermine the rights of the local communities. For REDD+ to be successful, financial and non-financial incentives have to be provided to both large-scale commercial farmers and small-scale farmers to find viable, competitive and sustainable alternatives to high-value commodities, like timber and cash crops, such as soybeans or flowers.

Implementing REDD+ in a way that benefits everyone

Ensuring streamlined, transparent and accountable mechanisms for enforcing the governance and effective implementation of the existing REDD+ legislation is also critical. This will help reduce costs and will ensure REDD+ benefits forest-dependent people, national governments and investors.

Social and environmental safeguards are critical for securing the protection of community rights to:

  • the land the forest is on
  • products from the forests
  • the carbon stored in the forest
  • the forest's biodiversity
  • intellectual property rights to products from the forest
  • benefiting from the carbon credits created for keeping the forest standing. 


But this is easier said than done. A recent World Bank report on benefit sharing  highlights the importance of rigorous consultation and social impact assessment processes. This includes:

  • holding open public debates before REDD+ schemes commence, and providing  accessible information on the process to everyone affected,
  • ensuring public input into planning and negotiating contracts,
  • applying  procedural rights to investments, for example in terms of freedom of information,
  • working in conjunction with voluntary initiatives, such as the extractive industries transparency initiative,
  • strengthening legal institutions and dedicated dispute resolution mechanisms,
  • developing robust monitoring systems for assessing the impacts of benefit sharing systems on communities.


However, as indicated in the briefing ‘REDD+: Ready to engage private investors?,’ a narrower gap between good policy and good governance is critical to ensure REDD+ effectiveness.

For example, Ghana gives prominence to customary tenure and the role of traditional authorities, while Tanzania enacted the Village Land Act to safeguard people’s right to access forests in the respective countries. But their effectiveness in ensuring participation and channelling REDD+ benefits to communities is not straightforward. Mozambique’s land and forestry legislation is perhaps better framed as it contains provisions for how people must be involved in land use and in decisions to allocate land to third parties. In this way it is similar to  the Free, Prior and Informed Consent” framework (FPIC), indicated below:

  • Free: Communities have the right to freely participate in decision making about how resources are allocated and used;
  • Prior: consultations with communities are required before land or forests can be allocated for private and public investments, including the establishment of protected areas. Customary and occupation rights are acknowledged and protected irrespective of whether they are formal or not. In case of communities seeking registration of their land, they are equally required to consult with neighbouring communities to establish the boundaries that are commonly agreed upon;
  • Informed: Communities must be informed about the nature of business and likely social and economic impacts before it begins by providing them with relevant information and involving them in designing participatory maps. It also requires government and investors to give communities feedback on the final results of consultations and decisions made;
  • Consent: Land for private investments can only be approved with the consent of local communities, as stated in the technical annex that guides the consultation process. This is one of the critical aspects of the innovative and progressive land legislation in Mozambique.

It’s important to involve different parts of the community in this process, including women who have important knowledge about forest resources. Consultations should also include independent experts, who can critically analyse the terms of the investment proposals including REDD+ initiatives, but who are often not listed as FPIC stakeholders.
Operational frameworks, such as FPIC, could guide investment in agriculture, mining, industrial forest plantations, infrastructure and others. Equally, they could be used to ensure that people’s rights and benefits are protected when implementing REDD+ and the Clean Development Mechanism, which was designed to support carbon offsets through involvement of  communities in reforestation and forestation projects.

The UN Conference on Climate Change in Durban needs to deliver further progress on REDD+ in terms of how the rights of communities will be protected, how the process will be financed and how countries will develop readiness plans and map out next steps.

We have the tools and knowledge – now they need to be used to hammer something into shape.

Find out more

Read the briefing: REDD+: Ready to engage private investors?

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