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Do trees grow on money? The implications of deforestation research for policies to promote REDD

This paper provides a brief overview of the current knowledge and data on deforestation rates, research on the causes of deforestation and forest degradation and relevant policy options. It highlights issues of particular relevance to new discussions on reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries at different stages of forest transition. The paper suggests that the design and implementation of REDD policies will be neither simple nor straightforward, given the complexity of the social, economic, environmental and political dimensions of deforestation.

The paper states that the causes of deforestation and degradation can be separated into direct and underlying causes. The direct causes include agricultural expansion, wood extraction and infrastructure extension. Many of the underlying causes are generated outside the forestry sector, these include demographic and macroeconomic factors, and technological, policy and cultural variables. The authors argue that the multi-dimensional factors that cause deforestation can differ significantly across countries and over time. Therefore, REDD policies need to deal with the fact that the institutions responsible for aligning the behaviour of individual economic actors are generally weak and interests of different stakeholders differ within and between countries.

The paper gives the following recommendations.

  • There is a need to eliminate subsidies that drive deforestation and degradation, such as subsidies for agricultural expansion.
  • New incentives for forest protection must be created, including forest friendly subsidies, certification schemes and transfer payment schemes.
  • Governance mechanisms need to be strengthened, such as tenure and property rights and inclusive participation in decision-making.
  • Strengthening institutional capacity at national, regional and local levels is necessary to ensure that each is allocated appropriate responsibilities and resources.