Benefit distribution plays a central role in incentivizing action in REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation and forest enhancement). Conceived as a global performance-based incentive mechanism to reduce land-use emissions in developing countries, REDD+ involves changes in resource governance by many actors at multiple scales, in order to minimize the climate impact of land-use activities or to maximize their contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A key governance issue for developing countries is how to incentivize action among stakeholders and the way countries design their benefit-sharing mechanisms (BSMs) is therefore seen as a critical factor in determining the success of REDD+ in the long term. This comprehensive research investigates up-to-date national level REDD+ planning documents to provide new evidence on how countries are planning to implement BSMs, including an analysis of common governance themes and where gaps exist. Our unique comparative study based on five country cases reveals that there is a lack of comprehensive participatory, transparent and accountable processes among country strategies and in particular, shortcomings in preparation for local and subnational governance, financial disbursement and dispute-resolution mechanisms. Furthermore, countries are making slow progress on land tenure and carbon rights reform. In fact, such ambiguous legislation on carbon benefits, coupled with weak institutional capacity and ineffective dispute-resolution mechanisms, may make it difficult for REDD+ stakeholders to participate fully in initiatives and receive a fair distribution of benefits. This research indicates that REDD+ actors including donors and national governments will need to further rethink strategies and policy frameworks to improve their BSMs and to guarantee effective, equitable and efficient REDD+ outcomes in the long term.
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