The risks of using REDD+ to manage rich socio-ecological systems

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Paul Vincent Martin


REDD+ is an important development in environmental and social justice policy instruments. However, its success depends on a network of complex contingencies, and the achievement of difficult governance transformations in countries that are under severe economic pressure. It ought be obvious that there are significant risks associated with this endeavour, but overt risk management, using standard approaches, is not evident.

This paper highlights some of the many risks that the governance of REDD+ (in common with most environmental policy innovations) needs to pay attention to in order to avoid policy failure. There are eight distinct elements that have to work for the REDD+ program to achieve its public policy goals, and each of these carries its own risk. These are: securitisation of carbon sequestration; protection for complex non-carbon values, ensuring the integrity of the supply of credit; multi-level administration and aggregation of tradeable carbon interests; managing the social and economic imbalance of interests; deploying new methods for measurement and securitisation of interests; ensuring a platform of rules, administrative and enforcement systems, teams and intelligence networks; and achieving price and ‘brand’ competitiveness in a crowded carbon offsets marketplace.

Although the issues listed in this paper are not comprehensive, they highlight major concerns and support the argument that a comprehensive and systematic approach to policy risk is likely to add value to the REDD+ implementation. The paper suggests that good management practice would separate risk management from policy or instrument development, and embed this aspect of good governance with a sufficient level of authority to ensure that the negative potentials are managed with a degree of vigour consistent with the importance of the issues.

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Author Biography

Paul Vincent Martin, University of New England

Australian Centre for Agriculture and Law, School of Law