24.1 Introduction

When the idea of REDD+ was consolidated at the UNFCCC COP in Bali in 2007, there were high expectations that it would be a path-breaking approach to reducing tropical deforestation and GHG emissions from the forest sector. The core of the idea was to pay for the forgone benefits of forestland conversion with a substantial flow of funding, rewarding forest stakeholders who measurably slowed deforestation and forest degradation against a baseline. Public sector funding would initiate the process, to be eventually supplanted by a robust market in carbon credits. In the introduction of this book, we observed that the idea of REDD+ has evolved and diversified over time, and that there are now equal measures of hope and discouragement concerning its capacity to fulfill its multiple goals.

This mix of hope and discouragement comes in part from the experiences of subnational initiatives such as those described in this book. These initiatives were called for in the 2007 Bali Action Plan, as one type of ‘demonstration activity,’ to support the development of REDD+ by carefully documenting and disseminating their efforts to reduce emissions by addressing nationally relevant drivers of deforestation. Numerous initiatives have been launched in at least 47 developing countries (Simonet et al. 2014), some drawing international attention for their pioneering efforts or controversies associated with their financial and legal status, and many others making incremental and generally unremarked progress. Funding for these initiatives has been part of the vast expansion of funds for tropical forest conservation motivated by REDD+, but is still generally considered insufficient to make a significant dent in global carbon emissions.

In some countries, the launch of these initiatives has helped: (i) spur research and capacity building for MRV; (ii) strengthen ongoing efforts to clarify forest tenure; (iii) encourage the development of national regulations on the rights to and distribution of carbon revenues; and (iv) contribute to the public dialogue about low-carbon development pathways. The initiatives have drawn political and scientific attention to the diverse tropical forest ecosystems where they are located, from the peat swamps of Kalimantan to the coral rag of Zanzibar. And they have moved REDD+ funds into the field, creating a set of ‘field experiments’ with different types and combinations of interventions ranging from conditional monetary payments, to FSC certification of community forests, and to training and monitoring of improved fire management. In several cases, REDD+ funds have sustained ongoing forest conservation interventions that otherwise would have been suspended. In most cases, the proponents of initiatives have sought to build and improve upon previous efforts to conserve forest. Likewise, moving forward, their experiences could help inform forest conservation efforts across multiple dimensions, not limited to REDD+.

While the initiatives have largely fulfilled their role as pilot programs designed to explore and evaluate alternatives for implementing REDD+, most are struggling to make the transition from pilots to sustained REDD+ interventions. This is partly because of the lessons that they have uncovered: there are multiple challenges related to both REDD+ specifically (MRV) and to forest conservation in general (financing, tenure, institutional/scale issues and safeguards). In particular, proponents have found it challenging to implement the original core idea of REDD+ because of, for example, entrance barriers to the international carbon market and difficulty managing local expectations about significant carbon revenues. Responses have varied, from treating initiatives as time-limited pilots that generate lessons for national policy development; to transforming the initiatives into broader low-carbon development efforts; continuing with conservation efforts that preceded and are now succeeding REDD+; and actively seeking carbon revenues in order to continue as REDD+ interventions.

In this chapter, we synthesize what these diverse experiences tell us about the capability of REDD+ to deliver on its goals, including the role of subnational initiatives and how they integrate with national REDD+ through their choice of (i) scale and (ii) MRV systems. Our research on these initiatives also gives us insights into the challenges of (i) financing interventions, (ii) clarifying tenure, and (iii) designing social safeguards. In particular, our rich data on household livelihoods and village conditions allow us to identify common patterns as well as heterogeneity that must be taken into account in the design of social safeguards. For each of these five issues, we first note some of the key insights from the literature and then summarize what we have learned from the case studies. We close with a section assessing whether REDD+ still has the potential to be the path-breaking solution to deforestation that generated so much hope and enthusiasm seven years ago.

24.2 Key challenges facing REDD+

24.2.1 Finances

Following the Bali COP in 2007, international funding for REDD+ quickly ramped up, with large pledges from governments and the development of voluntary markets. Since 2010, however, the flow of funds has been smaller, and this is reflected in the experience of the 23 initiatives described in this book. According to Norman and Nakhooda (2014), USD 8.7 billion was pledged or invested in REDD+ from the public and private sectors from 2006 through March of 2014. Of that total, 65% was pledged between 2006 and 2010, 61% was for readiness activities not conditioned on performance, 88% was pledged by the public sector through multilateral and bilateral channels (nearly all as grants), 41% was pledged by Norway, and 40% was allocated to Brazil and Indonesia. Pascual et al. (2013, 19) note that this represents “a dramatic and unprecedented increase in foreign aid for the forestry sector,” although Watson et al. (2014, 12) caution that “a significant volume of the bilateral finance that has been counted as support for REDD+, includes longstanding programs to support forest conservation and biodiversity, and sustainable land management.”

Norway has played a particularly important role in REDD+ finance as the largest donor, with a strategy focused primarily on climate mitigation, multiyear investments that have raised the domestic profile of REDD+ in key countries and a willingness to test performance-based funding mechanisms. Other significant donors globally include the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom, with Japan also making substantial contributions to MRV capacity, Australia to REDD+ in Indonesia and France to Francophone Africa. In terms of the countries in our study, Norway has provided 70% of the funding for REDD+ in Indonesia and 60% for Tanzania (including support for most of the initiatives in our sample), as well as being the most important donor to Brazil’s Amazon Fund (Norman and Nakhooda 2014). While Norway’s donations to the Amazon Fund have been performance based, Brazil has not passed that conditionality on to recipients of the funds, including several initiatives in our sample.

Pascual et al. (2013, 13) argue that the success of REDD+ will depend “on the scale and reliability of its financing, the mechanism’s ability to financially compete with alternate land uses, and the fair and wide distribution of financial benefits.” There are clearly challenges on all three fronts. Donor funding was initially intended to support the start-up of REDD+ and to be quickly supplanted by carbon markets. REDD+ did represent the largest volume (22.6 million tCO2e) and value (USD 94 million) in voluntary carbon offset markets in 2013 (Peters-Stanley et al. 2014), but this was partly because of bilateral funding intended to bolster a flagging market. Donor funding is notoriously unstable and also raises concerns about REDD+ competing with other development needs. Peters-Stanley and Gonzalez (2014) report that the price of carbon credits from REDD+ fell significantly in 2013, which means that generating offsets became less competitive relative to clearing forest for commodity production. Thus, both the total demand and the per-unit value of carbon in voluntary markets remain insufficient to compete with the opportunity costs of clearing forest, and there is still significant controversy and uncertainty about whether REDD+ offsets will be accepted into compliance markets, such as the California cap-and-trade program. Finally, many of the initiatives in our sample have had difficulty meeting all of the requirements for entry into the voluntary carbon markets, most notably in terms of MRV.

Twelve of the 14 initiatives in our sample that continue as REDD+ efforts have definite plans to sell carbon credits. However, only four initiatives have actually sold credits as of mid-2014. Whether or not they were planning to sell carbon credits, the proponents of these initiatives required start-up funding to launch their activities, which they obtained mostly from international donors. However, 10 of the initiatives have received significant financial support from domestic institutions (including four that have received in-kind support from governments), and two of the initiatives (Madre de Dios and Jari/Amapá) are led and financed primarily by domestic institutions. Of the initiatives depending on international aid, 10 have been supported by Norway directly through Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative or the bilateral REDD+ Fund in Tanzania, or indirectly through contributions to the Brazilian Amazon Fund. Twelve have been supported by philanthropies or NGOs, including foundations such as Clinton, Moore, and Packard, and NGOs such as Fauna and Flora International, TNC and WWF. Only six of the initiatives have received financial support from the private for-profit sector.

The proponents in our sample have pursued several different strategies in response to the reduced flow of REDD+ funds since 2010. Several, including all with private sector investors, have continued to pursue markets for carbon credits, using strategies such as CCBA certification to differentiate themselves in the market. At the other extreme, several have decided to treat their initiatives as time-limited pilots, producing lessons for national REDD+ development but not continuing their own REDD+ interventions. A third strategy has been to seek complementary sources of funding and incentives for sustainable forest management, such as FSC certification. Finally, some proponents have transformed and aligned their REDD+ initiatives with broader policy agendas for low-carbon development.

One question raised by this multiplicity of strategies is whether and which represent failures of REDD+. If REDD+ is defined as conditional cash payments to landholders, then clearly most initiatives have failed. This vision of REDD+ is only viable with a secure market or fund for carbon offsets to support a contract guaranteeing that landholders will definitely be paid if they reduce emissions and will definitely not be paid if they do not reduce emissions. Other types of funding make it hard to comply with both principles (cf. Wunder et al. 2008).

REDD+ could also be defined more broadly as a set of positive incentives for landholders to change behavior in order to reduce emissions. This could theoretically be achieved through short-term funding for training and subsidized inputs to start complementary activities that compete with forest clearing and/or require standing forest as input, or for developing institutions that give co-benefits of forest conservation more consideration in local decision making. This is essentially the well-worn ICDP approach, which has been found to be largely unsuccessful (Sunderlin et al. 2014a), contributing to interest in REDD+ as a potential source of long-term, conditional payments that could ensure durable reductions in emissions while safeguarding biodiversity and local livelihoods.

24.2.2 Tenure

There are three general reasons why tenure is important in REDD+. The first concerns the tenure of local stakeholders within the boundaries of the initiative in relation to REDD+’s performance-based mechanism. REDD+ needs to provide enduring and secure rights-based capability and motivation to those entrusted with the role of protecting and restoring forests. As noted above, the core idea of REDD+ is to motivate stakeholders to protect forests through the provision of conditional, performance-based rewards. This mechanism requires that the appropriate right-holders to that future stream of benefits are identified, because these right-holders are the same people who will be held responsible for ensuring that forest protection goals have been met. It is a characteristic feature of most forests in developing countries that tenure is contested and therefore insecure. This outcome results from state appropriation of rights to forests long ago, as well as a long legacy of powerful actors exploiting forestlands and resources at the expense of their inhabitants (Larson et al. 2013; Sunderlin et al. 2014b). Beyond identifying the appropriate right-holders and responsibility bearers, it is important to clarify local tenure over forests and carbon in order to prevent or minimize the effects of a resource rush and protect existing livelihoods in the event that the stream of REDD+ income attracts competitors (Sunderlin et al. 2014b).

Second, tenure security for local stakeholders within the boundaries of an initiative is important for various reasons that go beyond REDD+’s performance-based mechanism. Among the main threats to forest in REDD+ initiatives is outside claimants on local forests – whether they are smallholders or large landholders – so it is important to empower local stakeholders with legally enforceable rights of exclusion (Sunderlin et al. 2014b). Moreover, some degree of forest-based climate change mitigation can be achieved through the provision of tenure rights alone, which is to say, without financial compensation to local stakeholders (Stevens et al. 2014). This can conceivably occur under conditions where traditional right-holders derive higher direct benefits from forests (e.g. due to cultural values), where forest management is a profitable alternative if placed on a level playing field (e.g. with the same access to credit) and where deforestation is a strategy used to secure tenure rights.

The third reason – and closely related to those above – why tenure is important in REDD+ is that existing forest tenure arrangements at the level of the landscape (i.e. including not just the initiative but also a wider area) have tended historically to favor the interests of actors that convert forests to non-forest uses, and are therefore in need of review and change for reasons of forest conservation, climate change mitigation and also equity. Tenure arrangements in many countries reflect a long legacy of providing privileged access to forestland and resources to powerful actors such as logging, agro-industrial, livestock and mining companies, and of fulfilling state imperatives for economic and infrastructural development (Sunderlin 2011). Various countries are beginning to come to terms with the damaging environmental consequences of this legacy, for example, through Brazil’s Forest Code (Tollefson 2011) and CAR (Duchelle et al. 2014), and Indonesia’s One Map Policy (UKP4 2013) and the Indonesia Forest Moratorium (Murdiyarso et al. 2011).

CIFOR-GCS research at the case study sites has shown that proponents have given dedicated attention to tenure clarification at the local level, but in many cases have not yet succeeded in creating a secure tenure foundation for REDD+ activities. Strong attention to tenure is justified because more than half the 71 villages at 19 sites are experiencing tenure insecurity over a portion of their lands, almost two-thirds are experiencing external use of local forests, a quarter have external uses that are prohibited, and in one-sixth, villagers have tried but failed to exclude external users (Sunderlin et al. 2014b, 43). At four CIFOR-GCS study sites in Brazil, there are various challenges to be surmounted in spite of proponents being able to collaborate directly with government on tenure regularization (Duchelle et al. 2014). At five sites in Indonesia, existing tenure conditions are inadequate for the effective implementation of REDD+ (Resosudarmo et al. 2014a). At six sites in Tanzania, proponents have focused on external pressures on tenure, but ought to give more attention to issues of internal institutions and rules compliance (Dokken et al. 2014). At the two sites in Cameroon, some progress has been made on tenure clarification but initiative participants are frustrated by the lack of progress toward implementing compensation and benefit-sharing systems (Awono et al. 2014). A survey of difficulties encountered in setting up REDD+ at the 23 sites revealed that tenure is viewed by proponents as the paramount challenge (Sunderlin et al. 2014a).

The case chapters in this book enrich our understanding of the challenges that tenure poses to the fulfillment of REDD+’s goals. At 19 of the 23 sites, tenure is one among a number of challenges. At 11 of the 23 sites, tenure is among the most important challenges (Jari/Amapá, SFX, Transamazon, Madre de Dios, Kigoma, Mpingo, KCCP, KFCP, Rimba Raya, Katingan and TNC within BFCP). At six of the 23 sites, tenure issues bring into question whether the initiative can fulfill its objectives. At Jari/Amapá, there is local stakeholder disillusionment because of insecure tenure, and to date the proponent has been unable to resolve the issue through a land exchange (Chapter 5). At Madre de Dios, the success of REDD+ could depend on the government eliminating multi-use zoning (Chapter 8). At Kigoma, Jumuiya ya Watunza Msitu wa Masito, the new proponent organization, has sought tenure over the forest in order to fund itself through timber management rights, but the government is so far unwilling to award tenure (Chapter 12). At both Katingan and Rimba Raya, awarding of an ERC over only a part of the forest targeted for protection threatens to undermine success (Chapters 18 and 20).

24.2.3 Scale of REDD+

The creation of national REDD+ architectures involves harmonizing the efforts of subnational REDD+ projects and programs into national frameworks. Regardless of whether or not a nested or subnational jurisdictional approach1 is adopted, REDD+ is an inherently multilevel process, requiring coordination between activities on the ground and policies at higher levels.

A theoretical advantage of jurisdictional REDD+ programs is that they house the purviews of economic development and environmental stewardship, along with mechanisms of downward accountability, in one place – government. Jurisdictional approaches to low emissions rural development also provide a way to link to REDD+ via sustainable supply chains, domestic policies and finance through a shared performance metric (Nepstad et al. 2013). Interest in subnational jurisdictional programs has also been motivated by the lack of progress in international climate negotiations toward binding agreements. Subnational jurisdictional programs can move forward with actions that leverage forests for climate change mitigation even as international negotiations continue at a slow pace. Innovative discussions that aim to advance subnational jurisdictional programs to secure these advantages are emerging in this context. Perhaps the strongest example of these innovations is the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), a unique platform that facilitates the interchange of information and lessons learned among subnational governments, and also aims to pursue funding opportunities for subnational jurisdictional programs (Asner 2011; GCF 2014b). GCF member states recently signed a declaration to reduce deforestation in their subnational jurisdictions by 80% by 2020 if performance-based financing can be secured (GCF 2014b).

Given these advantages, we hypothesized that the proponents of jurisdictional REDD+ programs perceive subnational policies to be less challenging than do the proponents of local REDD+ projects. Yet, evidence from interviews with proponents of the 23 subnational initiatives shows that this is not necessarily the case. We asked the 23 proponents to evaluate a wide range of policies related to REDD+ and asked them to rate the size of the challenge posed by those policies on a Likert scale. When we compared the answers of the six jurisdictional respondents with the answers of the non-jurisdictional project staff, we found no significant difference in the perceived magnitude of challenge presented by any international policy or national policy. However, subnational agriculture, trade, investment, tenure and land-use policies were perceived as significantly more challenging by the six respondents linked to jurisdictional REDD+ programs than by other proponents (paper being prepared by Ravikumar et al.).2

These results fail to support the hypothesis that bringing REDD+ under the control of subnational governments is more likely to lead to subnational policies that are consonant with the needs of REDD+. While it is difficult to derive causal inferences based on responses from just six jurisdictional REDD+ initiatives, plausible explanations for the observed results are discussed in Ravikumar et al.’s forthcoming paper.

There are additional challenges associated with jurisdictional REDD+ approaches. First, jurisdictional REDD+ can suffer from electoral liability. For instance, in Brazil, while the states of Acre and Mato Grosso have passed state REDD+ laws, and the municipalities of São Félix do Xingu and Cotriguaçu are pursuing innovative local governance models for green development, changes in political leadership could adversely affect these advances if not sufficiently institutionalized. Second, the involvement of multiple stakeholders in large-scale jurisdictional initiatives requires navigating conflict and collaboration among actors with very different interests and degrees of power. For example, the leadership of REDD+ remains uncertain in Indonesia, with the REDD+ Agency, the President’s special taskforce (UKP4), and Ministries of Environment, Finance, Forestry, and Agriculture all potentially playing important roles. Complicating the picture further, different sectorial ministries may be decentralized to different degrees; MoFor maintains substantial control of forestland, for example, while for other sectors, powers have been decentralized to the districts. These issues of coordination may be especially salient for jurisdictional programs compared with other initiatives because jurisdictional programs may have stronger and more formal relationships with other levels and sectors of government, precluding the possibility of ‘bypassing’ these complications or liaising directly with the international community. Other issues that subnational jurisdictional approaches may face include leakage across state borders (Atmadja and Verchot 2012), inadequate devolution of relevant powers over land use and other policy instruments to subnational governments, and an increased potential for corruption at the local level (McCarthy 2004; Palmer 2001).

Despite these challenges, the move to jurisdictional approaches by many proponents of subnational REDD+ initiatives holds promise given the slow progress of the international climate change negotiations, the substantial advances made by many tropical states and provinces, and the need to place REDD+ within a broader framework of low emissions rural development.

24.2.4 MRV

Measuring and monitoring forest carbon emissions at the national level essentially involves estimating and monitoring changes for two key variables: (i) activity data (area of deforestation and degradation); and (ii) changes in terrestrial carbon stock densities per unit area (emission factors; Verchot et al. 2012; GOFC-GOLD 2013). The objectives and reporting rules for carbon monitoring in REDD+ are defined in UNFCCC decisions and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Good Practice Guidelines (GPGs). Many REDD+ countries are starting with large gaps in capacity for carbon monitoring and have concrete plans to improve this capacity as part of REDD+ readiness activities (Romijn et al. 2013). Despite these advances, there are still numerous challenges to MRV for subnational initiatives.

One of the main challenges relates to scale. The IPCC GPGs have been developed for generating national GHG inventories, as they provide the framework and tools for countries to report internationally. At the subnational level, proponents may find the guidelines of carbon certifiers, such as the VCS and Plan Vivo, to be more relevant, especially when they hope to access the voluntary market. The problem is that reporting to the different accounting frameworks, even when based on similar data, can lead to very different results. The sum of claimed emission reductions by subnational initiatives should not exceed the total claimed at the national scale and should demonstrate consistency with national GHG inventories (Dutschke 2013). Addressing omissions, leakage, double counting and overlapping claims over carbon rights may require nesting of local initiatives into larger jurisdictional monitoring efforts. The potential use of national and global data and datasets for application at subnational levels must be further tested to support the proponents of subnational REDD+ initiatives in their efforts.

Another challenge relates to MRV capacity by the proponents of subnational REDD+ initiatives. In our sample of 23 initiatives, MRV development varied widely, with capabilities generally high in Latin America and not as advanced in Africa and Asia (Joseph et al. 2013). Methods are readily available for evaluating the impacts of forest clearing over larger areas, such as by commercial agriculture expansion, leading to large-scale permanent conversion that can be accurately measured. In contrast, detecting deforestation associated with subsistence agriculture poses a greater challenge, since the disturbances are smaller and the long-term net carbon outcomes less certain (Ziegler et al. 2012). Small-scale deforestation and degradation therefore requires investigation at a finer scale, such as through the use of very high resolution imagery (Herold et al. 2011). Forest degradation processes and their specific drivers are more difficult to detect through remote sensing and suffer from lack of reference levels (Skutsch et al. 2011).

Despite MRV challenges across our sample, there are notable instances of progress. Among the Brazilian initiatives, Acre’s government established a state-level geoprocessing center (UCEGEO) to map and monitor deforestation and forest degradation at finer scales (more detailed minimum mapping unit) than even the well-developed Amazon-wide monitoring system, and is continuing developing its methodologies for monitoring and evaluating forest fires. In Tanzania, proponents reported that the unavailability of historical data related to forest monitoring complicated building the site-level MRV capacity, a challenge compounded by the lack of local capacity and by the costs of external expertise. However, in both Indonesia and Tanzania, some initiatives have MRV support from international conservation organizations with which they are affiliated. This is the case with TNC within BFCP and SFX (both operated in the name of TNC), and KCCP (implemented by Flora and Fauna International). The importance of customized, locally relevant solutions is demonstrated by the Mpingo initiative, where forest fires contribute to 60% of emissions (Chapter 15). Fire frequency and the change in biomass are monitored through the GapFire model, developed in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh. The experience of the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group in the Kilosa and Lindi sites illustrates the fact that committed individuals in an organization can make significant progress in developing successful MRV systems. Both national and subnational initiatives aim for similar results, and synergies for monitoring and win-win situations need to be created to make monitoring efficient and effective on the different scales that REDD+ operates (Pratihast et al. 2013).

24.2.5 Social safeguards

Financing for REDD+ under any future climate change mitigation agreement will be conditional on the implementation of national Safeguard Information Systems to address social and environmental criteria that go beyond carbon. Countries are required to comply with the seven safeguards articulated in the UNFCCC Cancun Agreement (Decision 1/CP.16): (i) complement national forest programs and international conventions and agreements; (ii) maintain transparent governance; (iii) respect knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities; (iv) obtain effective participation in REDD+ design and implementation; (v) promote forest conservation and other environmental and social co-benefits; (vi) address risks of reversals; and (vii) reduce leakage (UNFCCC 2011). Furthermore, jurisdictions and initiatives already engaged with multi- and bilateral donors and third-party certifiers must consider additional standards for demonstrating high social and environmental performance, such as those of the Forest Carbon Partnership Fund (FCPF), the UN-REDD Programme, the CCBA and the REDD+ Social & Environmental Standards Initiative (REDD+ SES).

It has been widely accepted that REDD+ must minimize social risks (‘do no harm’) and promote social co-benefits (‘do good’) where possible in order to be effective and equitable. In this section, we highlight evidence from the 23 subnational REDD+ initiatives as it relates to full and effective participation of local stakeholders, and explore the challenge of promoting social co-benefits in a way that is efficient and equitable given the heterogeneity of livelihood portfolios and varying patterns of forest use and dependence among local stakeholders.

Full and effective participation requires high levels of engagement by local stakeholders throughout REDD+ design and implementation. It begins with access to information, which is reflected in the requirement of FPIC as communities choose whether to participate in REDD+. Local people must understand the importance of forests in the context of climate change, how subnational REDD+ initiatives will be organized and administered, and how planned interventions could affect them (Resosudarmo et al. 2012). Results from interviews with the REDD+ proponent organizations show that most planned to obtain certification through CCBA or REDD+ SES (Jagger et al. 2014). Most had also obtained or planned to obtain FPIC with local stakeholders (Jagger et al. 2014).

At the village and household levels, we asked respondents about their knowledge of REDD+ in general, and the REDD+ initiative in particular. Villagers’ familiarity with REDD+ and/or the REDD+ initiative was generally low. Of the 2182 intervention households interviewed, only 492 (22.5%) had heard about the concept of REDD+ and 743 (34%) had heard about the REDD+ initiative operating in their region. These low numbers partly reflect the early stage of REDD+ implementation when we posed the questions. In some cases, proponents had not yet fully conducted their outreach work. In other cases, where outreach had been conducted, individuals who said they had not heard of REDD+ may not have been reached or understood the information that was conveyed to them.

Income-related outcomes stood out as the most frequently cited hope and worry in all sites where respondents had heard of the local initiatives and where they showed basic understanding of REDD+ or the initiative (paper being prepared by Resosudarmo et al.).3 The high expectation of receiving tangible (income-related) benefits and related worries that they would not benefit, or even have their incomes harmed by REDD+ interventions, is in stark contrast to the low incidence of worries related to governance questions, such as their low involvement/participation in the process. Only about a quarter of total respondents who understood the REDD+ initiative were involved in its implementation, which was largely limited to passive or consultative participation, such as attending meetings about the initiative and sometimes being asked for feedback.

Social co-benefits can be conceptualized as improving human well-being, assuring equitable benefit sharing and increasing the adaptive capacity of local people (Lawlor et al. 2013). Promoting social co-benefits for local people involved in REDD+ so as to devise positive and negative incentives for behavior change requires sufficient information and understanding of how they will be affected. A recent survey of the proponents’ understanding of threats to forests showed small-scale agriculture as a key driver of deforestation at many sites (Sunderlin et al. 2014a). Consequently, a common intervention across many of the 23 sites is prohibition or restrictions on clearing land for crops or livestock (negative incentive) linked to promotion of more sustainable agricultural practices (positive incentive).

The relevance of the above is highlighted by our data, showing that smallholders at our study sites are indeed highly reliant on agricultural income. Households at 14 of the 17 sites for which we have detailed income data derive their largest income share from crops and livestock (Figure 24.1). The combined shares amount to over 50% of total household income in most sites in Brazil, Cameroon, Tanzania and Vietnam, and less in Peru where our sites are characterized by high reliance on two main forest products: Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) in Madre de Dios and timber in Ucayali.


Figure 24.1 The average household income share (+/- SE) derived from crops, livestock and forest in study sites.

High agricultural income dependent on forest clearing, and high income share from forest products represent two extremes in the value of forest and forestland. However, there are also more nuanced sources of both income and pressure on forests. Degradation through charcoal production is a widespread pressure in the low-carbon forests in Tanzania while, in Cameroon, both degradation from unsustainable NTFP harvesting, and land clearing by smallholders and commercial interests are concomitant and form a complex scenario for intervention. Nevertheless, the primary value of forests for many smallholders globally is in the form of land for agricultural expansion, despite the important direct contribution of forests to livelihoods (Angelsen et al. 2014). An average of 41% of the households interviewed across all sites had cleared forest within the previous two years, primarily for crop cultivation (92.3% of households clearing any land did so primarily for cropping, Figure 24.2). Forest access and conversion restrictions are therefore the main potential threat of REDD+ to social safeguards, by either failing to protect (no-harm principle) or enhance livelihoods, or failing to do so in an equitable manner.


Figure 24.2 Average area (by country) cleared by households that engaged in any clearing activity over the two years before the interview. Total area (including crops) and area specifically cleared for cropping are reported in hectares (+/– SE).

Compensation of opportunity costs becomes even more complex when such costs are not related only to conversion by local stakeholders but are also due to external forces such as industrial agricultural expansion. Most of the case study initiatives in Indonesia operate on the principle of preventing conversion by palm oil industry expansion, which is often based on legal claims (i.e. concessions granted by the government). Here, REDD+ proponents also need to convince participants that benefits from REDD+ are higher than the opportunity of employment and other downstream revenue sources derived from the establishment of commercial agriculture.

Heterogeneity of livelihood portfolios of smallholders at the site level, and villages within sites, poses additional challenges in designing interventions that are both effective and equitable, even when holding external factors constant. Contrasting the community-level Gini coefficient to livelihood activities, we found that a high share of crop income is correlated with lower inequality (t = –2.71, p = 0.008), while the opposite is true for livestock (t = 2.06, p = 0.04), and share from forest income has no relationship (t = –1.6, p >0.05). As a consequence, interventions that are aimed at improving cattle ranching could, if successful, exacerbate inequality within the community unless stakeholders not engaged in this activity are offered an equally successful intervention targeting other behaviors and livelihoods. The same could hold true for other combinations of economic activities that have a particular distribution in the community structure, suggesting the necessity for a local if not individual focus of interventions.

Evidence from our case studies suggests that a wide array of benefit-sharing mechanisms are being explored, with compensations targeted at the individual, household and community levels, both directly and indirectly through existing institutional structures (Luttrell et al. 2013). Involving local people in the design and implementation of REDD+ interventions is key to establish the right mix of positive and negative incentives toward genuinely promoting social co-benefits.

These considerations highlight not only the inherent challenge of bringing equitable benefits to a community, but also imply the need for effective monitoring and evaluation over time. Livelihood co-benefits are complex and difficult to design, implement and monitor, as they encompass different scales, a large and varied body of stakeholders and heterogeneous conditions on the ground. This calls for a delicate balancing of pragmatism and rigor in monitoring human well-being and carbon outcomes of REDD+, and highlights the need for research to assist the development and assessment of methods and indicators of well-being that are both cost effective and reliable.

24.3 How are REDD+ initiatives responding to the challenges?

The case studies in this book provide a clear picture that REDD+ at the subnational level is facing formidable challenges. Each of the five challenges that we describe is complex and with no obvious single solution. They are a combination of old challenges (funding of conservation and development, tenure, scale of implementation, social safeguards) and one new challenge specific to REDD+ (carbon MRV). There are other barriers at play, including: the coordination of REDD+ and variable commitment to forest-based climate change mitigation at the international and national levels; and institutional interests, agendas and capacity. While these issues merit separate treatment, they are touched on indirectly as cross-cutting themes in the book’s examination of the five challenges.

The challenges facing REDD+ have resulted in a series of adaptations and innovations on the ground that were not anticipated in 2007. Financial opportunities and constraints have been a strong conditioning factor. REDD+ readiness programs and the availability of seed funding for pilots motivated a burst of creative energy directed at establishing REDD+. Emerging funding constraints (whether because of the failure of a strong forest carbon market to emerge or for other reasons) have motivated a search for ways to survive in the most difficult cases, and for creative new directions in the best of cases. We have found six indicative ways that initiatives have responded to the interplay of opportunities and constraints. We classify them as adaptations (in the sense of an adjustment to a constraint or anticipated vulnerability) or innovations (in the sense of creative and forward-looking improvement in reaction to an opportunity). We list them as follows:


  • Maintain an ICDP approach while waiting for more favorable conditions for REDD+ to take shape, including the emergence of a robust international carbon market.
  • Abandon or postpone a plan to introduce a performance-based, conditional reward system because of concern there will not be a long-term sustainable source of funding.
  • Delay communication about conditional REDD+ rewards to local stakeholders in order to avoid raising expectations unnecessarily – given the uncertainty of future funding.


  • Seek collaboration with practitioners of jurisdictional REDD+, notably, involvement in GCF (e.g. Acre, Ulu Masen). GCF is a partnership aiming for REDD+-based emission offsets through state-level climate change programs (e.g. California’s compliance market) in order to overcome the international impasse.
  • Scale up to a higher level because of the unviability of project-scale implementation, such as Acre adopting a statewide approach, or the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV, the proponent of Cat Tien) shifting its attention from the project level to the provincial level.
  • Partner with organizations that have compatible objectives (such as Kilosa collaborating with the Sustainable Charcoal initiative in Tanzania) or with organizations that have complementary capacity, such as research institutions or agencies with MRV capability.

An innovative feature of REDD+ was the concept of carbon credits for sale. In the following we review how the initiatives relate to the carbon market, recognizing that this was envisioned as a key opportunity and potentially serves to address most other challenges. We have classified the 23 cases into three categories: (i) the four that are currently selling forest carbon credits (Bolsa Floresta, Jari/Amapá, Madre de Dios, Rimba Raya); (ii) the 11 initiatives for which selling forest carbon credits is still a possibility (Acre, Ucayali, SE Cameroon, Mt. Cameroon, Mpingo, Shinyanga, Kilosa, Lindi, KCCP, Katingan, TNC within BFCP); and (iii) the eight that either will not or are unlikely to sell credits any time soon (Cotriguaçu, SFX, Transamazon, Kigoma, Zanzibar, Ulu Masen, KFCP, Cat Tien). We elaborate on these categories as follows.

i) Currently selling credits. Three of the four initiatives selling credits include three (out of four) private for-profit initiatives in our sample (Jari/Amapá, Madre de Dios, Rimba Raya). Bolsa Floresta, the fourth initiative selling carbon credits, is private nonprofit. Among the 19 initiatives in categories ii and iii, only one (Katingan) is private for-profit. The disproportionate concentration of private for-profit initiatives in this category raises the question of whether these initiatives have benefited from a higher capital endowment and/or higher risk tolerance to overcome the financial challenge. It is possible the drive to recoup investment in a profit orientation has enabled Jari/Amapá, Madre de Dios and Rimba Raya to be among the first initiatives in our sample to access the forest carbon market.

ii) Might sell credits. This category spans a wide range. It includes six initiatives (Acre, Ucayali, Kilosa, Lindi, Katingan, TNC within BFCP) that appear to be confident they can eventually access the carbon market. For the rest, there is a range of significant hesitations and hurdles. For example, SE Cameroon is not currently interested in selling carbon credits as it is concerned about market instability and its consequences for livelihoods. At Mpingo, the low carbon content of the forest and correspondingly low income is an ongoing concern. KCCP needs to surmount a tenure obstacle before it can continue efforts to access the market.

iii) Will not or probably will not sell credits. Cotriguaçu, SFX and Transamazon in Brazil were initially interested in the carbon market but are now steering a different course. Cotriguaçu and SFX have evolved into low-carbon development programs. Kigoma has failed to access the carbon market during the last three and a half years and judged that this was too short a period to do so. It applied for a new phase of start-up funding but was unsuccessful. Zanzibar has experienced a variety of difficulties including low carbon content of its forest, and will cease operations at the end of 2014. Ulu Masen is in hiatus due to a change in governorship. KFCP experienced a range of troubles, including a political controversy, and came to an end in 2014 without having made performance-based incentive payments linked to emissions reductions. Cat Tien initially aimed for the voluntary market, but a 2010 study found this approach was not viable. It ceased to operate in 2012.


Women and men in a village work together to plant rice in one household’s agricultural plot, on thin peat soils in Kapuas district, Central Kalimantan. (Stibniati S Atmadja/CIFOR)

When the concept of REDD+ took shape after the Bali COP in 2007, there were inspirational calls for experimentation, testing and innovation in the pilot phase with the aim of establishing a reliable approach to slowing tropical forest conversion. Our cases show that, more often than not, initiatives are oriented to adapting to constraints rather than innovation in a situation where the enabling conditions for REDD+ (e.g. clear and stable international architecture including financing, national policy frameworks) have not fallen into place fast enough. And even in cases where innovation has been undertaken, it sometimes has an adaptive character, as in the case of GCF being formed in part to compensate for policy inertia at the international level. The forest carbon market was to have been the core funding mechanism for REDD+, but seven years on, it has barely gotten off the ground. Some proponents remain determined and hopeful that REDD+ will play out as originally envisioned, while others have drifted in a different direction. REDD+ appears to be at a pivotal crossroads. It is unclear whether proponents can or cannot surmount the core challenges they are facing.

24.4 Conclusions

REDD+ launched the latest round of global efforts to slow tropical deforestation, but so far does not appear to have contributed much towards that goal. There is growing urgency to stop treating forests as a sacrificial biome, among other reasons because in the era of climate change, the stability of Earth’s climate and ecological processes – and all the social and economic processes linked to them – are at risk. Nevertheless, there is much political, economic and cultural momentum from the past inhibiting a breakthrough on forest-based climate change mitigation. The interests of those deriving a benefit from conversion of forests to non-forest uses are still dominant in land-use decisions in much of the tropical world.

The cases in this book illustrate the broader indecisiveness at the level of the globe, the economy and its institutions on how to carry forward with the forest conservation agenda. On the one hand, proponents are on the whole highly motivated to fulfill not just environmental but also social goals, yet they have limited means to go beyond their current level of achievement. In spite of the innovations discussed above, by and large REDD+ is still operating mostly in the mode of ICDP, an approach to curbing tropical deforestation which is known to have fallen short of expectations.

Given these circumstances, what is to be done? Transformational change related to institutions, interests, ideas and information remains a high priority (Brockhaus and Angelsen 2012). Beyond that, we offer several recommendations related to the current state of climate diplomacy and the five challenges discussed in this chapter.

In the best of all possible worlds, a climate change treaty will be ratified at COP 21 in Paris in December 2015. This could conceivably open up opportunities for funding at the level needed, stimulate state incentives to resolve tenure difficulties, lower some of the hurdles to collaborating with government and conducting jurisdictional REDD+, accelerate the process of MRV, and pave the way to putting safeguards in place. Although a binding global treaty is necessary for a climate mitigation breakthrough, it is likely not sufficient given that it would take time to implement. Even with a binding global treaty (and especially without), it is necessary to forge ahead with various challenge-specific actions as specified below.

Finances. Our case studies make it clear at the micro level that there is an urgent need to cover the costs of avoided smallholder forestland conversion. We are agnostic on what the best possible type of reward mechanism would be, given the experimental nature of the forest carbon market (both voluntary and compliance), as well as other modes of delivery, including result-based aid.

Tenure. For reasons explained in this chapter, efforts to clarify tenure will be a key dimension of preparations for forest-based climate change mitigation whether or not a performance-based mechanism occupies a central role. Among the key areas needing continued attention are: forest tenure reform; linkage of forest tenure and environmental compliance mechanisms as in Brazil; institutionalization of participatory mapping in national land-use decision making; resolution of longstanding contestation between customary and statutory forestland claims; review of existing and planned industrial forestland concessions in light of concurrent plans for forest conservation, afforestation, reforestation and REDD+; and clarification of rights to forest carbon.

Scale. It is necessary to embed climate change mitigation actions in state laws, regulations, protocols, practices and other institutions of the state to ensure continuity in contexts often characterized by electoral uncertainty. Only in this way can jurisdictional and nested REDD+ rest on a durable institutional foundation necessary for a forest-based climate change mitigation mechanism to unfold in a stable and durable way.

MRV. It is necessary to raise MRV capacity in countries where it is deficient, not just to maximize the scope of REDD+ but also to include emission sources that are important in particular landscapes, such as forest degradation and wild fire, and also for reasons of equity. It would be at least a partial failure of REDD+ if it could only be implemented successfully in middle-income tropical countries that are already well endowed financially and technologically. It is also necessary to continue building community-based MRV, not just for reasons of equity, but also to complement with local knowledge what even the most sophisticated technology cannot accomplish on its own.

Social safeguards. Attention to social safeguards needs to be increased and accelerated in view of the substantial lead time necessary for elaborating and putting in place guidelines that reflect the great heterogeneity in local livelihoods and reliance on natural resources. Governments and civil society groups have shown tremendous enthusiasm for REDD+ safeguards, which could wane if not supported by adequate funding. Additionally, fulfillment of environmental safeguards (i.e. success in protecting natural forests) must not entail compromises in fulfilling social safeguards.

The eyes of the world are on tropical forests in a way they have never been before in human history. More than being the home of indigenous peoples, the seat of irreplaceable biological diversity and the source of an abundance of renewable natural resources for forest and non-forest people alike – they are beginning to be valued for their crucial role in the global carbon cycle and climate stability. Our cases show it remains unclear whether REDD+ on the ground can play a meaningful role in safeguarding these indispensable functions of tropical forests. The experiences of subnational initiatives could serve as the building blocks for effective forest-based climate change mitigation if, and only if, their efforts are matched by an upsurge in financial support, collective action and political will around the world.

Box K
The role of women in early REDD+ implementation

Anne M Larson, Therese Dokken and Amy E Duchelle

Researchers and practitioners have amply discussed the potential effects of REDD+ on forest-based communities, but less attention has been paid to its gender dimensions. Ensuring that REDD+ helps rather than harms women requires understanding the gendered processes and variation that exist on the ground. The results presented here are based on data from 69 villages in 18 REDD+ sites across five countries (Brazil, Cameroon, Indonesia, Tanzania and Vietnam). This box highlights three findings: that overall, when responses are compared between mixed (male-dominated) and women’s groups, the women’s groups are less knowledgeable about REDD+ project interventions; that when women are involved, the type of involvement is less substantial than in the mixed groups; and that the women’s groups are less knowledgeable even when other key variables suggest that women might participate more fully (see Larson et al. in press).

Knowledge of REDD+

Overall, the data demonstrate that the women’s focus groups (100% female) appear less informed about REDD+ than the mixed (69% male) groups (Table K.1). Given the early phase of the initiatives, however, it is important to compare across groups within the same villages. For example, in Brazil, the women’s group demonstrated a basic understanding of REDD+ in all the villages where the mixed group did as well, whereas in Cameroon, Tanzania and Indonesia, the women’s group demonstrated a basic understanding in fewer villages when compared with the mixed group.

Table K.1 Knowledge of and involvement in REDD+ in women’s and village groups.

Demonstrated basic understanding
(n = 65) (# and %)

Involved in decision to implement
(# and %)

Involved in design or implementation
(# and %)

Type of involvement

Women’s focus group

26 (40)

13 of 26 (50)

9 of 26 (35)

Attending meetings or training events

Village/ mixed focus group

43 (66)

25 of 43 (58)

16 of 43 (37)

Attending meetings or training events, clarifying tenure arrangements, monitoring and rule enforcement

Of those groups that demonstrated a basic understanding of REDD+, the proportion of mixed and women’s groups that participated in the decision to implement (50–58%) or were involved in the design or implementation of REDD+ (35–37%) was similar. Nevertheless, the type of involvement among mixed groups included not only attending meetings and training events, as was the case for the women’s groups, but also clarifying tenure arrangements, monitoring forests and improving rule enforcement.

Understanding women’s participation

We hypothesized that, relative to the mixed groups, women would demonstrate similar knowledge of REDD+ initiatives if one or more of the following held true: (i) women have a strong voice in village decision making, (ii) women have a strong role in forest rule making, (iii) women use forest resources as much or more than men, or (iv) projects take an explicit gendered approach to REDD+.

The analysis found that women’s knowledge of REDD+ is not related to women’s perceptions of their influence in village decisions in general, or to women’s use of forest relative to their perception of men’s or to proponents’ official concerns about gender. Only women’s perceived level of participation in forest rule making is clearly higher among the villages where the two groups demonstrate the same basic understanding of REDD+ (although this correlation does not hold in all sites).

In summary, overall, the data demonstrate that fewer women have a basic understanding of REDD+ relative to the mixed groups, even for women assumed to have a vested interest in forests – a result with potentially significant implications. Important gender gaps in information, knowledge and decision making are likely to affect the distribution of future benefits and burdens. The findings suggest that ‘participation,’ while a central demand of indigenous and other local communities more generally, is only a partial solution to addressing women’s strategic needs in ways that could strengthen their position in REDD+. Rather, gender-responsive analyses are needed to understand real and perceived gender differences in interests and needs, and to anticipate threats or risks. Interventions that do not seek to address imbalances at the outset may be doomed to perpetuate them.

Box L
Can REDD+ deliver biodiversity co-benefits in Indonesia?

Josil P Murray, Richard Grenyer, Sven Wunder, Niels Raes and Julia PG Jones

Loss of tropical forests is a major driver of biodiversity loss (Wilcove et al. 2013). The REDD+ mechanism can therefore, in principle, play an important role in tackling biodiversity loss by incentivizing the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation (Busch and Grantham 2013). However, concerns that REDD+ could potentially harm biodiversity if it is not properly regulated, led to the proposition of biodiversity safeguards and co-benefits at the UNFCCC negotiation in Copenhagen at COP15 in 2009 (Visseren-Hamakers et al. 2012). A key concern is that preferential targeting of REDD+ in high carbon areas could lead to the displacement of land-use pressure (leakage) into high biodiversity but low carbon areas (Harrison and Paoli 2012) or divert funds for conservation away from high biodiversity areas with lower carbon (Phelps et al. 2012). The degree to which carbon and biodiversity are co-located in the landscape will influence the potential for REDD+ to deliver biodiversity benefits (Strassburg et al. 2010). However, additional gains for both will depend on the degree to which REDD+ focuses on areas under the threat of deforestation and forest degradation (Busch and Grantham 2013; Venter 2014).

Here, we explore the spatial overlaps between carbon stocks (Baccini et al. 2012; Hiederer and Köchy 2012), biodiversity richness, deforestation pressure (Busch et al. 2010), and the location of REDD+ initiatives relative to protected areas (PAs) and nonprotected forest. We focused on Indonesia because it has the highest deforestation rate globally (Margono et al. 2014), and it is a mega-biodiversity country (Sodhi et al. 2004) and a key player in the international REDD+ arena (Brockhaus et al. 2012). For biodiversity, we assembled data on the distribution of terrestrial vertebrates (ranges of amphibians, mammals, birds, reptiles) (BirdLife International and NatureServe 2012; IUCN 2012) and plants (species distribution models for eight major plant families) (Raes et al. 2013). We investigated congruence between carbon and different measures of biodiversity richness at the national and subnational scales. We then mapped the location of active REDD+ initiatives, investigated their carbon density and potential biodiversity richness, and modeled deforestation pressures to investigate their potential to deliver win–win carbon-biodiversity outcomes.

The results show that congruence between carbon and biodiversity varies greatly, depending on scale and the measure of biodiversity used (total, threatened or restricted range species richness). A total of 37 active REDD+ initiatives were identified, half of which were led by conservation NGOs, 35% by private for-profit organizations and 16% were collaborations with the Indonesian government. REDD+ forests tend to have, on average, lower carbon densities (mean = 419.8 tCO2/ha) than PAs (mean = 479.0 tCO2/ha) and unprotected forests (mean = 447.4 tCO2/ha) in Indonesia (Figure L.1). The mean carbon density differed significantly between groups (F = 16.17 on 2822 df, p < 0.0001). However, REDD+ initiatives have significantly higher potential total vertebrate species richness (F = 116.2 on 2836 df, p = < 0.0001) and threatened species richness (F = 181.8 on 2916 df, p = < 0.0001). This relationship is also true when plants are included as a measure of potential species richness (F = 13.5 on 1816 df, p < 0.0001). With regard to deforestation threats, we found that 23% (or 2.9 million ha) of REDD+ initiative areas fall within medium to very high deforestation threat forest; this compares to 11% (or 2 million ha) of PA and 21% (or 20 million ha) of non-protected forest. Forests currently not protected by REDD+ or PAs have a much larger area exposed to high threats to deforestation perhaps highlighting the potential for REDD+ expansion in Indonesia.


Figure L.1 Boxplots show the distribution of (a) carbon and three measures of vertebrate species richness: (b) total species, (c) threatened species and (d) restricted range species richness, in REDD+ initiatives (REDD), protected area (PA) and non-protected forests (Forest).

Note: notches approximate 95% confidence around the median value. Solid red dots represent the mean. The letters above each box indicate significant groupings after applying Tukey’s HSD test.

The lack of a clear and consistent relationship between carbon and any of our proxy measures of biodiversity could be linked to the fundamental ecological differences between carbon and biodiversity (Potts et al. 2013), thus cautioning against overly simplistic assumptions of the biodiversity benefits associated with carbon. Our study also found that while REDD+ initiatives are not targeting areas with the highest carbon stocks, they seem well positioned to deliver additional biodiversity gains. Perhaps this is because remaining forests outside PAs are degraded (Margono et al. 2014), leaving those available for REDD+ development with lower than average carbon stock. This explains why we also found many REDD+ initiatives in our sample including reforestation and restoration as part of their key activities. High biodiversity in REDD+ initiatives could be attributed to the role of conservation NGOs in seeing REDD+ as a novel funding stream for their spatially prioritized actions.

This analysis suggests that biodiversity co-benefits could indeed be achieved through REDD+ in Indonesia – maybe in some cases more prominently so than those of carbon. National- and subnational-level REDD+ design could gain from including overlay analyses to inform site selection based on high deforestation threat and relations between carbon and biodiversity, to achieve win–win situations and minimize trade-offs.

1 In the context of multilevel coordination, the terms ‘jurisdictional’ and ‘nested’ REDD+ have taken on different meanings for different actors. The VCS refers to nested as the integration of project-level carbon credits into broader-scale (jurisdictional) accounting mechanisms. Jurisdictional means that carbon monitoring will occur over an entire political administrative region, which could be subnational or national in scale (VCS 2013).

2 Ravikumar A, Larson AM, Myers R, Gonzales Tovar J and Duchelle AE. (In prep). Multilevel Governance Challenges and opportunities in transitioning towards a national approach for REDD+: Evidence from 23 subnational REDD+ initiatives.

3 Resosudarmo IAP, Duchelle AE, Ekaputri AD, Komalasari M, Awono A and Hyunh T. (In prep). Local perspectives of REDD+: Insights from subnational initiatives in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.