Building REDD+ Without the UNFCCC: Implications for the Future of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
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REDD+ stands for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. Despite this lengthy acronym, the REDD+ mechanism is actually a quite simple concept. Forests contain large amounts of carbon locked up in trees, soil, and other parts of the ecosystem. When forests are destroyed or degraded, this carbon is released and emitted into the atmosphere. By proving they have avoided this deforestation and forest degradation, forest managers can claim to have reduced their carbon emissions. The REDD+ mechanism is a way for this type of avoided deforestation (AD) strategy to be implemented in projects, policies, and institutions at various levels of government. It works by assigning value to the carbon stored in forests using a variety of market and non-market strategies that make it more profitable for forest managers to protect forests than to destroy them. While this offset system seems effective in theory, it has only seen partial implementation in actual institutions and policy. There are numerous REDD+ projects and institutions around the globe, however, there is still no UNFCCC treaty and therefore no international carbon market that recognizes credits derived from REDD+ activities. This prompts two questions that have become the basis for this research. First, why has REDD+ been able to develop without an international agreement establishing a market to fund it? And second, if the international community fails to agree upon a treaty establishing a market appropriate for REDD+, what are the implications for existing REDD+ activities? The methodology used in order to answer these questions is based primarily in research drawn from publications covering REDD+ history and theory. Given that the topic concerns events that take place in the last couple of decades, many journal articles and books are either published digitally or made available through online catalogues. The theoretical framework used for interpretation and analysis comes mostly from international relations literature. Specifically, various theories of global governance are used to explain how states interact when dealing with carbon emissions and the institutions that have been created to regulate them. Structurally, this paper is organized into three main sections. The first chapter is a literature review that picks out the main trends in the REDD+ literature and establishes the gap this research aims to fill. Following this, the second chapter includes the history of the REDD+ mechanism as well as its relationship with UNFCCC negotiations on global climate change. The final chapter first establishes why the proposed climate change treaty will fail, and then analyzes the implications for the REDD+ mechanism and existing REDD+ activities. The main thesis of this paper is that due to the concurrent development of REDD+ and a climate change treaty at the UNFCCC, REDD+ will have to adapt to reduced funding, governance ability, and overall effectiveness if the UNFCCC fails to create an international climate change treaty.