‘Paying people to protect forests not enough’

June 5th, 2009 - 6:33 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 5 (IANS) 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, says a new 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,” an IIED spokesperson said on e-mail.

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 hammer out 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 new study by researchers at IIED, the World Resources Institute and the Center 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 in Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America 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.

“Good governance is among the key conditions for REDD to be effective, equitable and bring crucial co-benefits including poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation,” says Sheila Wertz-Kanounnikoff of the International Center for Tropical Forestry Research. “Yet, despite the growing knowledge on forest governance, we still lack a clear understanding of ‘good governance’ and more importantly ‘good-enough governance’ for REDD in different country contexts.”

“Massive levels of funding are set to flow into REDD schemes so it is important that money is not spent on projects that are ineffective at protecting forests or that end up harming the poor,” said Peter Hazlewood of the World Resources Institute. “As this is such a new area of policy it is essential to share knowledge about what works and what does not.”

The countries covered by the case studies are Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

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