Norwegian study: Paying people doesn’t protect the forests

Paying people to protect forests can be an effective way to tackle deforestation and climate change but only if there is good governance of natural resources. This is the conclusion from a new Norwegian-founded study.
The study, coordinated by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), warned that such payments alone are not enough. “They will be effective only if key economic, cultural, institutional and information conditions are met, and if payment schemes monitor impacts on poor communities to ensure equity and avoid social harm,” The study was funded by the Norwegian government and was launched in Norway Friday on the occasion of World Environment Day. The report comes as government negotiators meet in Bonn to decide a global policy to address climate change. The deal will have forest conservation at its heart as deforestation and forest degradation accounts for about 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The study was conducted by researchers at IIED, the World Resources Institute and the Centre for International Forestry Research, looked at existing efforts to pay people in developing nations to protect ecosystems in return for the services – such as fresh water, wild foods and climate control – they provide. It aimed to see if such payments could be used to help tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, an approach known as REDD that is gaining international support under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“Effective and equitable governance will be the key to successful payment schemes,” says lead author Ivan Bond, a senior researcher at IIED. “Unfortunately, governance tends to be weakest in the very places where deforestation is greatest. Communities need clear land rights if they are to gain from payments that flow to their countries in return for forest protection.”
The researchers reviewed 13 schemes that make payments for ecosystems services around the world – including Indonesia and Vietnam – and concluded that performance-based payments can be part of REDD but only if important preconditions are met. If they are not, the money would be better spent on improving forest governance, institutions and policies at local, regional and national levels. The authors note that where governance is weak, there are risks that elites will capture the flow of funds while poor local communities, with weak land tenure, will lose out.

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