Linking the local to the global: REDD+ as a multi-level puzzle

We need to build information links between global discussions and local realities.

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (29 June 12)_If a UN-backed scheme to slow the pace of climate change by safeguarding the world’s tropical forests is to succeed, it must forge connections between local, national and global actors, according to a major new publication on the global state of the scheme known as REDD+.

“ REDD+ is inherently a multi-level puzzle,” said Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki, a scientist with the Centre for International Forestry Research, and a co-author of the new publication, Analysing REDD+.

“It can’t work without us acknowledging that global demands, national and regional institutions, and local people’s needs all must be taken into account – and that there are different interests at each level.”

REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, is a global scheme that aims to cut carbon emissions by compensating people in developing countries for preventing forest loss.

In a chapter of Analysing REDD+, launched this week on the sidelines of the Rio +20 summit in Brazil,  Korhonen-Kurki argues that communication between all levels – from the village, to provincial governments, to national and global institutions – is essential if REDD+ is to effectively measure, report and verify the amount of carbon emissions avoided in each forest area.

“We need the flow of information to go in both directions – from the global level to the local level, and from the local level to the global level,” she said.

“If there is a mismatch of interests, if there are different actors who don’t have ways to communicate with each other, and there are a lot of separate projects that work independently without knowing that, for example, somebody else did something and it didn’t work, the lessons learned could be missed.”


In Brazil and Indonesia, the two countries where REDD+ pilot projects are most advanced, it is the middle levels of the chain – the provincial and district governments – that play a crucial role.

“Because of the decentralisation of forest management in these countries, regional governments have a lot of power to issue logging permits – to decide what to do with the forests. They have to be convinced, they have to be involved. If they are committed to REDD, that’s very important,” Korhonen-Kurki said.

Blazing the trail

In Central Kalimantan in Indonesia, a network of REDD+ pilot projects are already showing the importance of linking the local to the national – via the provincial.

“One of the major cross-scale links is between the province and Jakarta,” says Caleb Gallemore, a researcher working with CIFOR in Kalteng, which has recently been designated a REDD+ pilot province.

He says REDD+ arrangements in the province have lacked a clear legal umbrella, and the provincial government has often decided to wait to make moves until it receives approval from the National Government, via the President’s Unit for Development Control and Monitoring (UKP4).

“This relationship is absolutely crucial, as UKP4 in some ways sees Kalteng as a policy laboratory or as blazing the trail on REDD+, while actors in Kalteng are being careful not to overstep their bounds.”

Gallemore says while there are still few direct connections between the forest villages and the provincial organisations involved in policy discussions, some steps are being taken to build these links.

A micro-blogging sms initiative, , takes advantage of the Indonesian penchant for text messaging, allowing people to send in reports related to REDD+ via mobile phone.

“The idea is to give people who don’t have computer-based Internet access a platform to make comments about REDD+ issues and, in theory, to monitor abuses.”

“It’s an interesting effort to use technology to help bridge the village and other scales and help local people become more active agents in the discussion about REDD+,” he said.

“It’s tough”

Gallemore says maintaining cross-scale connections like these takes considerable resources and effort.

“It’s tough. In Kalteng, it’s actually rather easier to maintain connections with Jakarta than, for example, with more remote areas like Kabupaten Murung Raya.”

“If REDD+ is successfully going to be scaled up, it will be absolutely necessary to think of inventive ways of not only providing information to people in areas affected by REDD+ projects and policies, but also to give those affected the ability to become active agents in the political processes that are affecting their forests and livelihoods.”

“The micro-blogging site might be an example of a step in that direction, but much, much more is likely to be necessary if REDD+ is to be effective and perceived as legitimate, particularly as efforts continue to undertake REDD+ at ever larger scales where people’s access to information and opportunities for voice might be difficult.”

A new system

Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki says the complexity of REDD+ requires a multi-level governance system that is unique in the history of environmental policy.

It would require not just better communication, but better decision-making.

“New institutions are not always needed, but when it is not possible to work through existing ones, there need to be new type of institutions that can deal with all the levels, and can bring all the different interests together to the greatest possible degree. There will will be always different interests, but at least in some degree they need to match up.”“But of course there can’t be a governance system that would harmonise all the interests, that would be impossible, the world is not like that,” she said.

“So that means REDD+ itself has to adjust to the reality, and become diverse itself. It can’t be too simple, because it has to be able to work in a complex world.”


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