REDD: does governance really matter?

Anais Hall's picture
Insight by 
Anais Hall
16 July 2010

With concerns over climate change rising, there have been several initiatives aimed at reducing the impacts and contributing factors of climate change. But with millions and potentially billions of dollars at stake, how successful will these initiatives be in mitigating climate change?

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation - REDD (and REDD+, which includes conservation, sustainable forest management and enhancing forests’ carbon stocks) is an international initiative that seeks to reduce CO2 emissions. The United Nations REDD collaborative programme that has generated $8.7 million for the carbon stored in forests.

Under REDD, 37 mainly tropical countries have requested more than $14bn in grants by 2015. Money will be transferred to developing countries for the reduction of emissions from forested lands and investment in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. This could reduce global emissions by amounts equalling those of the world's transport sector.

A recent blog in the Guardian expresses fears about developing countries ‘playing the system’ by collecting money without reducing deforestation. This raises the additionality debate in climate change mitigation programs. Concerns over additionality question if emission reductions from REDD projects are genuinely additional to the reduction that would occur if that project were not in place. A proposed solution to the additionality problem is through national CO2 emissions baselines. Nations would then only receive credit for reductions below the established baseline.

Though there are many debatable components of REDD, the need to reduce deforestation is evident.

Reducing deforestation

For many countries, like Indonesia, deforestation rates are on the rise. But while the growth in demand for palm oil, paper and other products has boosted Indonesia’s national economic growth it has also been linked to deforestation. With prudent financing, international funding for REDD projects can serve as a better alternative to plantation development that drives deforestation.

Current international discourse on climate change has increased countries’ participation and contribution to international conferences and programmes. Forest-rich developing countries are equipping themselves with knowledge of ecosystem services and REDD programmes, and are seeking to achieve economic growth in a sustainable manner.

Nevertheless, these countries will need to create and implement policies that incorporate this knowledge in order to achieve sustainable growth. One component of the effectiveness of any national policy is the ability of the government to provide good governance.

According to the 2009 World Bank Governance Matters project, Indonesia has below average levels of public governance. Most importantly, the Indonesian government has low capacity in formulating and implementing policies and regulations. A higher level of public governance, among other factors, is important in turning national policy into concrete outcomes.

Alongside financial support, developing countries like Indonesia will need public institutional support to link international norms to national practice. Recognising the importance of good governance, REDD is supporting governance interventions that governments and national stakeholders have identified as priorities. In strengthening governmental capacity, REDD hopes to ensure successful climate change mitigation.

Similar to deforestation, there are many factors influencing the success of climate change mitigation programmes. The REDD programme is working to identify and address such factors through strategic planning. Although it will not be possible to assess the success or failure of climate change mitigation initiatives for many years, it is clear that the need for good governance is a prerequisite for the success of REDD.