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FEATURE: Drive on by? Will upcoming meetings in Bonn take the opportunity to make progress on addressing drivers of deforestation?

Emily Brickell, an ODI Research Officer, blogs from the UNFCCC intersessional meetings in Bonn on the opportunities for addressing the drivers of deforestation in non-forest sectors. Her blog picks up themes that are also reflected in CDKN’s recently published Inside Story, ‘A new direction in climate compatible development: Indonesia’s forest moratorium’: a recommended case study on how deforestation goals need to be integrated across government.

The upcoming REDD+ Partnership meeting and the UNFCCC intersessional in Bonn are key opportunities to make progress on tackling the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, both so critical for stemming climate change.

Many advance submissions from governments and observer organisations stressed the need to look beyond the forest sector to address the way other sectors drive deforestation. For example, the EU point out that ‘given the importance of rural development, food security, mitigation and adaptation in the agricultural sector and of agricultural expansion as a driver of deforestation, the implications of REDD+ implementation should be considered from a broad perspective’. The relationship between forests and sectors that drive deforestation and forest degradation is crucial to efforts to reduce emissions and achieve development objectives.

The ODI-led REDDnet’s work on REDD+ and other sectors has examined how REDD+ can be designed in a way to not only address the drivers of deforestation, but to also contribute to key economic and development objectives (including the agriculture and energy sectors).  Our report ‘Making REDD+ cross-sectoral’ calls for the drivers of deforestation to be addressed through participatory processes involving all relevant sectors and recognising local and regional contexts. This is reflected in the Japanese submission:  ‘it is important to establish a cross-sectoral system which includes … dialogue and coordination between sectors’. This approach is critical to understanding the different motivations, constraints and demands on forested land.

However, while there is recognition this needs to happen, it is easier said than done.  While in many cases countries are taking steps towards such coordination, it often remains weak and has been fraught with challenges.  A REDDnet study focussed on opportunities for cross-sectoral implementation in East Africa found that broad, multi-sectoral processes related to REDD+ are often hampered by disagreements in policy creation. Unclear working modalities, fragmented communication challenges and confused decision-making are just as prevalent in cross-sector processes related to REDD+ as they are in other similar processes. Some participants cite bureaucratic challenges while others talk of the blinkered ‘cultures’ of home institutions.

Cross-sectoral processes related to REDD+ are further complicated by the need to identify solutions that deliver multiple objectives, or at least do no harm to other sectors. While there may be some win-win solutions, in many cases tough decisions need to be taken. How are the needs of agriculture, energy and forests going to be balanced? How can poverty reduction, economic development, environmental and climate change objectives be reconciled in this context? How will conflicts over decisions be resolved? These are echoed in a recent CCAFS policy brief which states that ‘there are serious obstacles to creating meaningful cross-sector links [which are] able to alter strong economic forces and existing government targets and mandates’, with a particular challenge being how to reconcile sector conflicts.  There are examples where progress has been made – an EDF report outlines that, from 2003-2007, the state of Acre in Brazil achieved a reduction in deforestation by 80%, while the value of agriculture increased by 40% and the state’s cattle herd grew by 15%, alongside growth in GDP per capita of 40%.

So, as governments and other stakeholders meet to discuss these issues in Bonn, it will be interesting to hear of practical experiences of efforts to address drivers of deforestation:

  • What challenges are being faced and what lessons learned or solutions have been identified?  What interventions are being implemented and how effective are they?
  • How are countries approaching trade-offs and conflicts that they come up against?
  • How is REDD+ and recognition of the need to curb emissions from forests feeding in to the dynamics?  Are REDD+ funds helping to find solutions, or change the dynamics, in efforts to tackle the drivers of deforestation?
  • Is REDD+ helping to create more of an incentive to prioritise decision-making that supports conservation and sustainable management of forests?  Or is the remaining uncertainty about a long-term incentive for REDD+, coupled with increasing demand for alternative land uses, holding this back?

Recognition of the need to reduce emissions from forests as part of efforts to avoid dangerous global warming has helped push forests up the political agenda.  Whether these efforts are able to face head on the trade-offs and conflicts that exist and find solutions to these challenges will be one of its biggest tests.

This blog was first published on REDD-netWe occasionally invite bloggers from around the world to provide their experiences and views. The views here are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of CDKN.

Image: Sentarum Lake, West Kalimantan, December 2004, courtesy of CIFOR

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