• Contact
  • Connexion


Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in Developing countries

Some six years ago, Kevin Conrad, a close
friend and advisor to Michael Somare, prime
minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG), had
a great idea. The prime minister was complaining
to him that the World Bank had
forced him to comply with a number of
strict conditions on a loan to the PNG forestry
sector. The conditions were aimed at
conserving the forests in this remote country.
As the biodiversity and carbon stored in
these forests were of global importance, Mr
Conrad advised his prime minister to ask for
compensation from the world community
for the ‘environmental service’ of reducing
deforestation. Thus the concept of payments
for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation
and forest Degradation in Developing countries
(REDD) was born.

This anecdote is often told by Mr Conrad
himself at international meetings. However,
Mr Conrad seldom specifi es what the conditions
of the World Bank exactly entailed
– that the government of PNG would make
a strong eff ort to combat corruption in its
forestry service and illegal logging in general.
So in fact, the prime minister of PNG
wanted to be compensated for complying
with his very own forestry laws.

The basic principle of REDD is not necessarily
objectionable. In fact, the suggestion
that industrialised countries should contribute
fi nancially to policies and actions taken
by developing countries to reduce emissions
from deforestation and forest degradation
is very much in line with Article 4 of the
Framework Convention on Climate Change
(FCCC) and the concept of common but
diff erentiated responsibilities. Reducing
deforestation is a contribution developing
countries can make towards global eff orts to
mitigate climate change. As industrialised
countries have a historical responsibility for
climate change, it is reasonable that they
should fully compensate the costs of such
actions. So REDD could be a great opportunity
to combine climate change mitigation,
forest conservation and income provision
for forest-dependent communities, if :

  • REDD actions were voluntary and additional
    to deep emission cuts in Northern
    countries ;
  • the payments by these same Northern
    countries covered the full costs of these
    actions, and these funds were additional to
    the signifi cant ecological reparations they
    are expected to pay to compensate Southern
    countries for the signifi cant damage
    climate change has already caused them ;
  • these funds were spent on the conservation
    and restoration of forests and not on
    the establishment of monoculture tree
    plantations ;
  • these funds were spent on policies and
    programmes fully in line with the UN
    Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
    Peoples (UNDRIPs) ;
  • these funds were shared equitably with
    the actors that are actually responsible
    for forest conservation and restoration,
    namely indigenous peoples, local communities
    and women ;
  • these funds were shared equitably among
    countries that have already put in place
    eff ective strategies to reduce their deforestation
    and countries that have failed to
    do so until now ;
  • there were serious problems with corruption
    and bad governance in the countries
    concerned ; and
  • the reductions in deforestation are real.

The problem with REDD is that there are
simply too many ‘ifs’ to be true. Although
the overwhelming majority of policy papers
on REDD published over the past years,
whether by NGOs, indigenous peoples,
governments, scientific institutions or multilateral
donors, have listed most if not all
of the conditions above as preconditions for
eff ective and equitable REDD strategies, few
of these policy papers subsequently reach the
logical conclusion that REDD should thus
not be implemented if these preconditions are
not met. [1] This means that the REDD dreams
sketched in these policy papers are likely to
become REDD nightmares in reality.

REDD without emission reductions

The reality is that Northern countries are
not willing to commit to deep reductions.
The draft US climate legislation that is supposed
to be adopted this year is estimated
to lead to approximately 0 per cent domestic
emission reductions by 2020 compared
to 1990 levels (if all non-domestic off sets
are excluded). [2] The chances that the US
administration will take a position that is
more ambitious than this are close to zero.
While the EU has at least committed itself
to 20 per cent reductions by 2020 even if
other Northern countries will not follow,
the chances that Canada, Australia, Japan or
other industrialised countries will commit
to signifi cant emission reductions without
the US are equally slim.

The source of REDD funding is another
important factor here. If fi nanced through
public funds, the reduced emissions from
deforestation will at least be additional to
the meagre emission cuts proposed. But
many Northern countries seem to be in
favour of funding REDD through carbon
markets. This implies that REDD will, by
definition, not contribute anything to emission
reductions, as every ton of carbon saved
by reduced deforestation will be compensated
for by an extra ton of carbon emitted in
the global North. REDD without emission
reductions will simply mean the end of most
of the world’s forests, as climate change itself
is the number one threat to forests and
other ecosystems.

REDD markets versus ecological debt

It is also unlikely that Northern countries
will provide the new and additional funding
necessary to pay for REDD on top of the
ecological debt repayment Southern countries
have demanded. The African Union
recently demanded between US$ 65 and
US$ 200 billion per year as ecological debt
repayment. The additional costs for REDD
vary signifi cantly with the kind of policies
that will be implemented. However, the
original REDD concept as promoted by
PNG would imply that landowners will be
granted a right to ask for compensation for
not cutting down that forest to produce, for
example, palm oil on their land. Oil palm
plantation owners can earn between US$
3,600 and 12,000 per hectare of plantation.
Considering that there are 1.5 billion hectares
of tropical forests, and that at least 50
per cent of these areas are suitable for oil
palm production, the world community
would theoretically have to provide between
US$ 2,700 and US$ 9,000 billion per
year to compensate potential oil palm farmers
alone. The chances that Northern countries
will commit to paying those costs, on
top of their ecological debt payments, are,
again, very slim. The financial offer by the
EU made on 10 September 2009, less than
three months before the Copenhagen Summit,
is more in the range of US$ 1.5 to US$
4 billion per year, some 0.1 per cent of what
would be needed for the PNG version of
REDD alone.

Many institutions have argued that REDD
should be financed through a ‘basket of
funding options’, [3] that is, by a combination of public funds and carbon markets. As stated
above, the first and foremost problem with
this is that it will mean that REDD does not
contribute to climate change mitigation, but
rather to helping the North find cheap reduction
options. Allowing carbon off sets for
REDD and other projects will also seriously
undermine Southern claims to reparations for
ecological debt. By absorbing the little development
space that Southern countries have
left, such off sets will significantly increase
inequities in the division of ecological space
between North and South (FoE 2009).

REDD forests or REDD monocultures

Another major problem with REDD is the
definition of forests that was adopted by
the parties to the Kyoto Protocol in 2001.
This definition includes not only a forest as
commonly perceived, but also any kind of
tree monoculture, and even areas that are
‘temporarily unstocked’ (a euphemism for
clear-cut) but waiting to be planted again at
an unspecified future moment. This flawed
definition will most likely be adopted for
REDD activities. As a result, REDD policies
might not only ignore serious forms of
forest degradation (see also Sasaki 2009) but
also the quite common forestry practice of
replacing biologically diverse forests with
monoculture tree plantations.

While some of the latest proposals include
references to the need for ‘co-benefits’ for
biodiversity and even reject ‘the replacement
of natural forests by tree plantations’,
these safeguards, even if accepted, will not
prevent significant amounts of funding from
being used for the establishment of tree monocultures in non-forest areas. The Brazilian
national climate strategy, for example,
includes a target of 13 million hectares of
additional tree plantations, of which only
2 million hectares will be planted with native
species. The more recent ‘planted forests’
strategy sets a target that is more than
double that. Most of these plantations will
either replace other ecosystems like pampa
(grasslands), cerrado (semi-dry woodland)
or caatinga (arid woodlands), and/or areas
where forests might have grown back provided
the land was left undisturbed.

REDD, indigenous rights and equitable sharing of benefits

Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations (IPOs)
have expressed strong concerns about the potential
impact of REDD on their rights and
interests, including their land rights. Considering
the significant amounts of funding that
might be at stake, their fear is that indigenous
lands will be subjected to land grabbing for
profitable projects. These impacts will be
significantly aggravated if REDD is financed
through carbon markets, as commercial finance is likely to fl ow towards projects that
are able to reduce deforestation rates significantly. Comparative research in Brazil revealed
that deforestation rates in indigenous
reserves are between 1.7 and 7 times lower
than deforestation rates in surrounding areas
(Nepstad et al. 2006). The Center for International
Forestry Research has thus recommended
that payments for environmental
services should not be targeting indigenous
peoples, as it would be highly inefficient to
pay people who were not planning to deforest
their territory anyway.

An analysis by the Global Forest Coalition
of the impact of market-based conservation
in five different communities revealed that :

[t]he use of market-based mechanisms inevitably
means that the odds are stacked
against those in a weaker initial negotiating
position. This includes people
with no legal land tenure and those unable
to afford the considerable expense
involved in the preparation of environmental
impact assessments, the delivery
of environmental services, the fulfilment
of a range of quantifiable qualification
criteria and the provision of upfront and
operational finance, including insurance
against project failure. This implies
that market-based conservation mechanisms
will inevitably lead to increased
corporate governance over biodiversity
conservation, and erode the governance
systems of (monetary) poor communities
and social groups including Indigenous
Peoples and women.

While carbon markets can, in theory, bring
some economic benefits to local communities,
it is important to analyse any economic
costs in terms of decreased food security and
food sovereignty and the loss of alternative
sources of jobs and income related to, for
example, the establishment of labour-extensive
tree plantations. The most significant impact was the sense of disempowerment
felt by many community members. In
all cases, local residents reported that their
control over their forests and livelihoods
had decreased because ‘the main decisions
were now taken by other actors’. Thus,
communities that had their own governance systems promoting collective sustainable
management of biodiversity became,
under the impact of market-based mechanisms,
more likely to act individually and
pursue individual economic interests such
as jobs, profits and financial rewards. The
position of women within the communities
was also affected, as women’s interests are
more likely to be overlooked in commercial
transactions normally closed by men (even
in communities where women previously
had responsibility for matters related to forests
and biodiversity). Women have a disadvantageous
position in monetary economies
in general, as they spend a significant part
of their time on activities such as childcare,
household management, procuring clean
water and other goods for the family, which
are not rewarded in monetary terms. [5]

The challenge of equitable sharing of benefits is felt not only on a sub-national level. By
definition, REDD will lead to much higher
payments for countries that have failed to
halt deforestation until now, as these countries
have deforestation to reduce. Recent
proposals to include ‘enhancement of carbon
stocks’ (that is, reforestation, including
the establishment of monoculture tree plantations)
and land management practices are
unlikely to resolve these inequities, as those
countries that have caused much carbon
emission through both deforestation and
other unsustainable land management practices
will still receive far higher payments
than countries that have practised sustainable
land management. African countries
will not be able to compete with the likes
of Indonesia and Brazil in reducing emissions
from land management. Thanks to its land-based emissions, Indonesia has joined
the world’s three largest emitters. A country
like Ethiopia will have a hard time competing
with that, even if it does decide to plaster
its countryside with 27 million hectares
of monoculture tree plantations, as Brazil
intends to do, according to its draft ‘planted
forests’ strategy.

Thanks to the vocal campaigns of IPOs
themselves, especially at recent conferences
of the parties of the Climate Convention,
concerns about indigenous rights seem to be
taken seriously by at least some governments.
In this respect, it has been helpful that the
two main multinational initiatives to finance
countries’ efforts to ‘prepare’ for REDD,
the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership
Facility and the UN-REDD programme,
are respectively bound to instruments that
demand consultation with and participation
by indigenous peoples in the development
of policies that aff ect them. UNDRIPs even
specifies the right to ‘free prior and informed
consent’, which means that REDD policies
should formally be implemented with explicit
indigenous peoples’ consent. It is important
to note that this pressure from the
main REDD donors has been helpful in convincing
at least some governments to consult
with IPOs in the elaboration of their REDD
strategies. For some countries, especially in
Africa and Asia, this was the fi rst time ever
indigenous peoples were seriously consulted
on forest policies.

However, it is important to remain cautious
here, as these multilateral donors are mainly
funding the preparation of REDD strategies.
Once these strategies reach the implementation
stage and support comes in from donors
and carbon markets that are not bound to
indigenous rights’ instruments, these rights
could easily be marginalised again. Indications
are that the capacity of national IPOs
themselves to engage in the national REDD
debate are a determining factor on whether
REDD will benefi t them or not, and regrettably
many of them still lack that capacity.

Last but not least, at the international level,
REDD is in violation of UNDRIPs, as
the negotiations have continued until now
without any meaningful participation by
indigenous peoples, despite the fact that a
REDD agreement by the FCCC will have
a signifi cant impact on indigenous territories,
which are home to many of the world’s
most precious forests.

REDD corruption

The need for good governance as one of the
preconditions for proper implementation of
REDD has been emphasised by many intergovernmental
and non-governmental institutions.
Without good governance, corporations
and other national actors will be
inclined to claim overestimated or otherwise
fraudulent emission reductions. In order to
calculate the reductions caused by a specific
conservation project, one has to establish an
appropriate baseline in order to ascertain
exactly what proportion of the emission reductions
is the result of the project. But establishing
proper baselines and verification
of the added value of REDD activities has
proven a tremendous challenge. It is hard to
define what would have happened with a forest in a business-as-usual situation. Determining
a proper baseline :

would either take the form of a reference
period in the past or a scenario which
could be used as a convincing projection
of the future trends of deforestation.
Unfortunately, there is little chance that
the future resembles the past ; robust predictions
of future deforestation seem unlikely
given the complex interactions of
factors commanding the pace of deforestation,
especially as most of them lie outside
the forest sector. (Karsenty 2008)

Another major problem is that of ‘leakage’,
which is inherent in forest-related carbon
projects. Leakage means that the environmental
benefi ts of a project are undermined
or even completely negated because the destructive
activities are simply moved to another
area. Protecting one forest area from
logging, for example, makes little sense for
the climate and provides few environmental
benefits if the logging shifts to a nearby area,
or another country.

Here again, the problems with REDD are
seriously aggravated if REDD is funded
through carbon markets. If non-additional
emission reductions from deforestation are
used to compensate for real emissions in the
North, the net result will be increased emissions
and thus aggravated climate change.

The fundamental dilemma with REDD is
that deforestation itself is an indicator of bad
governance and thus a good reason not to
implement REDD. As practically all countries
in the world (the US being the only
exception) have not only ratified the Convention
on Biodiversity but also committed
themselves in 2002 to significantly reducing
biodiversity loss by 2010, those countries
that still have high deforestation rates are
obviously not complying with international
commitments. That makes REDD a recipe
for disaster in countries like PNG, Brazil and
Indonesia, in fact, in practically all countries
that still, 17 years after the UN Conference
on Environment and Development, have
not succeeded in reducing deforestation.

Learning from success instead of paying for failure

Luckily, there are countries that have succeeded
in reducing or even halting deforestation.
These countries are complying with
the relevant regulations, and they should be
rewarded for doing so through the provision
of significant new and additional financial
resources. Respecting indigenous land
rights and community forest management
has proven to be one of the most equitable,
effective and efficient policy incentives for
forest conservation and forest restoration.
While these policies require far less funding
than compensation schemes targeted at
compensating soy farmers for not burning
every hectare of their land, they still require
institutional capacity, sound monitoring
and enforcement systems and resources to
develop socially just, participatory and inclusive
forest conservation and restoration
policies. Both the Convention on Biodiversity
and the Framework Convention on
Climate Change that were signed in 1992
oblige all governments to conserve forests
and require developed countries to contribute
new and additional financial resources
to reward developing countries for the incremental
costs of providing global environmental
benefits through reducing decritical forestation. The fact that the overwhelming
majority of developed countries have not
complied with these legally binding agreements
does not imply that they do not exist
anymore. Instead, as pointed out by an
increasing number of G-77 countries, the
failure to comply with these commitments
has created an ecological debt that should
be repaid on top of the new and additional
resources that were promised 17 years ago.


  • Cotula, L., and J. Mayers (2009), Tenure in
    REDD – Start-point or Afterthought ?’. Natural
    Resource Issues NO. 15. London : International
    Institute for Environment and Development.
  • Friends of the Earth (FoE) (2009), A Dangerous
    Distraction, Why Off setting in Failing the
    Climate and People : The Evidence.
  • Global Forest Coalition (GFC) (2008), Life as
    Commerce : The Impact of Market-based Conservation
    on Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities
    and Women.
  • Karsenty, A., (2008), ‘The Architecture of
    Proposed REDD Schemes after Bali : Facing
    Critical Choices’, Département Environnements
    et Societés, Montpellier.
  • Lovera., S. (2006), ‘Reducing Deforestation,
    It’s the Money We Love’, Forest Cover 20.
  • Nepstad, D., S. Schwartzman, B. Bamberger,
    M. Santilli, P. Schlesinger, P. Lefebvre,
    A. Alencar, D. Ray, E. Prinz, and A. Rolla
    (2006), ‘Inhibition of Amazon Deforestation
    and Fire by Parks and Indigenous Reserves’,
    Conservation Biology, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp.65-
  • Sasaki, N. and F. Putz (2009), ‘Critical Need
    for New Defi nitions of “Forests” and “Forest
    Degradation” in Global Climate Agreements’,
    Conservation Letters, Vol. xx, pp.1-7.

Télécharger Carbon Trading. How it works and why it fails PDF - 12.4 Mo


[1A noteworthy exception is the recently published
IIED briefi ng paper, Cotula, L. and J. Mayers (2009),
Tenure in REDD, Start-point or Afterthought ?

[2The legislation is still being discussed, but this is a
conservative estimate. Diff erent US-based NGOs
have estimated that the bill will reduce emissions to
1990 levels between 2024 and 2042.


[4GFC 2008.


Les opinions exprimées et les arguments avancés dans cet article demeurent l'entière responsabilité de l'auteur-e et ne reflètent pas nécessairement ceux du CETRI.