In 2007, the Forest Peoples Programme put out a briefing paper about reduced emissions from deforestation, or RED, as REDD was called back then. The briefing warned of the risks of the rapid expansion of avoided deforestation schemes without due regard to rights, and social and livelihood issues.
Last year, four academics published a paper in Conservation Biology, with the title, “Questioning REDD+ and the future of market-based conservation”. The paper starts with this memorable line, “Increasingly, one hears furtive whispers in the halls of conservation: ‘REDD+ is dead; it’s time to cut our losses and move on.’”
São Félix do Xingu is a large municipality in the state of Pará, Brazil. Since 2001, it has had one of the highest rates of deforestation in the Amazon. Covering an area of 8.4 million hectares, with more than two million head of cattle and a little over 106,000 people, it easy to see what the main driver of deforestation is.
Since 2009, CIFOR has been carrying out research into 23 REDD projects around the world, as part of its Global Comparative Study on REDD+. Three years into the research, CIFOR realised that REDD was “barely moving ahead”, as William Sunderlin, principal scientist at CIFOR, puts it.
Yesterday, at COP19 in Warsaw, Norway, the UK, and the USA launched yet another initiative to protect forests and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Called the “BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes”, this will be a public-private partnership housed in the World Bank.
Trying to calculate how much avoided deforestation has been achieved through a REDD project is not an easy matter. In fact it’s impossible without knowing what would have happened in the absence of the REDD project.