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Taking stock of jurisdictional approaches to sustainable forest management

Series of journal articles sheds light on pros and cons
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Panengahan Village, Pesisir Barat regency. Lampung Province. CIFOR/Nanang Sujana

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Taking a jurisdictional approach to sustainable forest and landscape management in the tropics is increasingly seen as one of the most effective methods to conserve productive ecosystems and support livelihoods, according to researchers.

Complementary to integrated landscape management efforts, jurisdictional approaches pull together levels of government from national to local, which serves to enhance and develop close links between ecosystem services, environment, agricultural and rural development.

A series of nine research papers curated by scientists with the Climate Change, Energy and Low-Carbon Development Team at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Earth Innovation Institute and other collaborators for Frontiers, detail various perspectives on jurisdictional approaches at the subnational level, offering insights into their capacity to effect change, and ideas about their level of influence.

“We found clear patterns emerging as we went along, ultimately situating the discussion within the context of environmental governance literature, through a subnational jurisdictional approach,” said Amy Duchelle, who at the time of publication led the CIFOR team. “It fills a gap where there is a need for independent, critical assessments of the progress and challenges to date of these approaches across the tropics.”

Short summaries of the papers follow:

In “Forestry Decentralization in the Context of Global Carbon Priorities: New Challenges for Subnational Governments,” researchers assess relationships between levels of governance and governments to understand how climate-related carbon forestry has engaged with decentralization as a result of competing land-use demands and questions over who determines the mandate of the role of subnational governments to develop practical land use solutions. By examining carbon forestry projects and forestry decentralization processes in Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Tanzania and Vietnam, which all have carbon forestry initiatives, the scientists review limitations and potential.

In “Authority of Second-Tier Governments to Reduce Deforestation in 30 Tropical Countries,” scientists classify second-tier governments in 30 tropical countries that are projected to have high emissions from deforestation, to determine the scope their general and forest-related authority. The authority of state- and province-level governments — “second-tier governments” — to make decisions related to slowing deforestation independently of national governments varies widely across countries. They demonstrate which countries have second-tier governments with the broadest authority to reduce deforestation which ones have the least authority, detailing various portfolios this level of government generally control, illustrating the implications and potential related patterns of deforestation.

In “A Tentative Theory of Change to Evaluate Jurisdictional Approaches to Reduced Deforestation,” the authors explore how sub-national jurisdictions are promoted as strategic levels of governance for achieving reduced deforestation objectives. Although they are increasingly popular, a lack of robust empirical data does not adequately document their effectiveness in delivering environmental, social and economic outcomes, they state. They suggest that greater clarification of the jurisdictional approach concept would be beneficial, particularly if based on a theory of change clarifying the links between interventions associated with a given approach and their effects.

In “Lessons for Jurisdictional Approaches From Municipal-Level Initiatives to Halt Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon,” researchers posit that despite the growing popularity of jurisdictional approaches in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there is as yet no consensus on which approach to take. Researchers assessed two contrasting municipal-level case studies in the eastern Amazonian state of Pará where jurisdiction-wide efforts are underway to reduce deforestation. Using forest governance intervention timelines and other tools, they defined the processes used in each municipality. Through this process they provide answers on how to implement and improve jurisdictional approaches aimed at halting deforestation in the tropics.

In “REDD+ in Theory and Practice: How Lessons From Local Projects Can Inform Jurisdictional Approaches,” scientists explore how local REDD+ projects were frequently designed as pilot actions, analyzing two databases. They found that among 226 conservation-oriented REDD+ projects, only 88 had planned conditional incentives to landowners—the key feature of payments for ecosystem services (PES). By more closely scrutinizing a portfolio of 23 local REDD+ projects that were implemented, the scientists learned that conditional incentives were considered the most promising and effective intervention. Insecure land tenure and uncertain REDD+ financial flows were key impediments to using conditional incentives, the scientists learned, which ultimately exposed discrepancies between REDD+ theory and practice. Scientists conclude that jurisdictions would be well-advised to plan for conditional landowner incentives only in scenarios where preconditions for PES are met.

In “The Rio Branco Declaration: Assessing Progress Toward a Near-Term Voluntary Deforestation Reduction Target in Subnational Jurisdictions Across the Tropics,” scientists explored the 30 first-order subnational jurisdictions in Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Peru that voluntarily signed onto the Rio Branco agreement, committing to reduce deforestation 80 percent by 2020 if they got adequate support from the international community. The scientists evaluated progress toward meeting their deforestation commitment, examining a subset of the potential factors supporting or slowing progress, finding that achieving the target was slow and likely unattainable in most jurisdictions outside of Brazil.

In “How Can Jurisdictional Approaches to Sustainability Protect and Enhance the Rights and Livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities?” scientists explored the hypothesis that tropical forests hold up to one-third of the solution to slow climate change. Because estimates indicate 200 million “forest peoples”—including Indigenous peoples and local communities—live in and depend upon tropical forests, achieving full climate change mitigation potential means finding new ways to collaborate. In 2018, 34 subnational governments and 18 indigenous and local community organizations announced their endorsement of the “Guiding Principles for Collaboration between Subnational Governments, Indigenous Peoples, and Local Communities.” After analysis, scientists suggest that implementation and security of rights is uneven across subnational jurisdictions, limiting their potential to inform policy outcomes and benefit-sharing mechanisms.

In the “Jurisdictional Approach in Indonesia: Incentives, Actions, and Facilitating Connections,” authors discuss how jurisdictional approaches were initially seen as a way to manage obstacles during early efforts to implement corporate commitments to deforestation-free supply chains. While the overall impact of these approaches have had on supply chains is still unclear, material incentives for change are very limited in comparison to factors that drive business-as-usual deforestation. This is due to limited availability of spatial data for better land-use planning, low capacity of district-level officials, and misalignment of government policies between subnational and national entities and across ministries. To properly test a theory of change developed around jurisdictional approaches, greater emphasis on creating external incentives and more broadly linking initiatives across jurisdictions is required to clear pathways for activities within individual provinces and districts.

In “Participatory Use of a Tool to Assess Governance for Sustainable Landscapes,” scientists point out that sustainable management of resources is crucial for balancing competing livelihood, economic, and environmental goals and comprehensive jurisdictional approaches to ensure governance of forests and land-use can help promote sustainability. Using a rating tool in 19 states and provinces in Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mexico and Peru using public information, interviews with stakeholders in the jurisdiction and a multi-stakeholder workshop to validate the indicator ratings scientists explored the effects of stakeholder involvement. Overall, the tool was considered useful for self-assessment of the jurisdiction and to address gaps in coordination demonstrating that a participatory approach to collecting and validating data can be used to inform research on environmental governance and sustainability.

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This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.
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