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A note by the editor of ForestIndustries.EU

Deforestation and forest degradation, through agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development, destructive logging, fires etc., account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector.
Currently, there appears to be a consensus that the issue of deforestation and forest degradation must be effectively tackled as it would otherwise limit the options available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gas concentrations and increases in temperature to acceptable levels.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) - is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Good and efficient governance of forest resources will be central to the success of REDD+ policies and measures.  Good governance will enable an environment conducive to the predictable and lasting delivery of emission reductions, ensure that REDD+ policies provide sufficient incentives and minimize negative social impacts, and promote structures of service delivery and payments geared towards sustainable development and poverty reduction outcomes.  Governance challenges are many: unenforced land tenure systems, elite capture, marginalization of stakeholders, uncoordinated mechanisms or corruption are often recognized, and can be met with coordinated, cross-sectoral development strategies.
REDD+ should provide positive links to poverty alleviation through:

  • the development of benefit-sharing arrangements under REDD+, in which the financial benefits from carbon credits are devolved to local stakeholders;
  • the positive effects of improved and more efficient forest management policies and practices, such as improved forest products, income opportunities and ecosystem services;
  • and the use of REDD+ as a platform for improving local rights and providing more accountable forest governance mechanisms.

Any activities under a REDD+ mechanism are to be made for changes in land use and better stewardship of forest resources. This, however, can only be achieved if the socio-economic drivers of deforestation and degradation are addressed and current users have sufficient confidence in the REDD+ mechanism to change the way they use forest resources.  This will not be easy, as current emission-intensive uses of forest resources are often an important source of foreign exchange, energy, food security, new settlements or employment.

SFM is a good deal more than Reduced Impact Logging (RIL)

SFM, according to internationally agreed language, is a dynamic and evolving concept that aims to maintain and enhance the economic, social and environmental value of all types of forests, for the benefit of future generations. SFM is the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfill, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems.

In this context good and efficient governance of forest resources and the distribution of benefits will therefore be central to the success of REDD+ policies and measures. The concept of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), thus, can be seen as a holistic management system which addresses all relevant issues and aspects of forests resources, is one of the most important building blocks of any further national REDD+ program.
Forests provide multiple benefits to a multitude of users. If not carefully managed, this multiplicity of users can create situations of conflict leading to resource misuse. Thus, Sustainable Forest Management (defined from the broad perspective of preserving all ecosystem services for the present and all future generations) requires attention to a range of issues (legislation, property rights capacity to implement, etc., for example) and the need to involve a number of actors (government, local stakeholders, NGOs, private sector, etc.).

This has two important implications for the design of strategic approaches. First, the overall state of governance is one of several critical sets of factors determining outcomes in the sector. In other words, while improvement in governance is a necessary condition for SFM it cannot be sufficient by itself. But, by the same token, governance issues cannot be ignored otherwise the success of other reform efforts in forestry will likely be short-lived. And second, several stakeholders will need to be involved in any realistic strategy aimed at improving governance. (Kishor and Belle, 2004 ).

Two third of deforestation happens because of land conversion to agriculture mainly due to pressure by increasing population. Therefore REDD+ cannot be seen in isolation from rural development and land use planning. Forests are a substantial and integrated part of the rural areas. Therefore SFM must closely fit into national, regional and local treatment of the rural environment. People living at rural land are closely interacting with forests. Either by chopping down forest for agriculture needs, by harvesting forest products and using ecosystem services of forests for their livelihood or by relaying on the protective functions of their forests. Sustainable Forest management is able to manage the provision of all those functions in parallel as long as it will be treated as an integrative part of rural development and of land use planning. It is therefore vital to any REDD+ good governance activity to manage existing forest resources properly.

A TAP review taken from a HFLD country’s R-PP clearly points out the main issue:

“Scenarios of future deforestation for commercial use (agro-industry, energy) are preempted in the R-PIN. Nevertheless, such conversion will happen if government policies would create the conductive investment environment for it. The entire argumentation on deforestation is not very convincing, however efforts at the level of degradation/forest restoration and developing the carbon potential of sustainable (yield) (forest) management should be more explored.
At present, deforestation is not an issue to the country because population pressure on the forests resources is low and the government development policy is partly based on forestry. The argument is made that policy can be changed over time and lead to conversion of forests for commercial agriculture and energy crops. Forest degradation is an issue where timber harvesting is done without management plans. As long as there is a clear policy on sustainable forest management, there is no need for the narrow focused program on reducing deforestation. Urban development will happen and thus deforestation is needed for that kind of development. It would be an illusion to tackle that kind of deforestation with a REDD incentive scheme. The issue is rather one of an extended REDD approach, that includes how to keep existing high carbon stocks intact and how to restore degraded carbon stocks to full carbon stocks, in both, production forests and conservation forests.”

Many of the discussions on REDD+ have so far focused on readiness activities and the technical issues surrounding the measurement of actual and lasting emissions reductions.  There has also been some attention paid to the structure of the financial mechanisms required at the international level to transfer payments from developed countries to developing countries for emission reductions.  However, almost all attention in the past was paid to reducing emissions from deforestation by conservation of forests. Sustainable forest management and carbon enrichment (which is mainly bound to Afforestation and reforestation activities), though been seen as crucial to REDD+, have been ignored so far.

In May 2010 when Norway and Indonesia joined forces by signing a bilateral contract to combat deforestation within the REDD+ concept, first voices were being raised to claim the ‘plus’ part of REDD+. The emphasis on the “avoidance” of deforestation and degradation in the REDD+ negotiations has tended to underplay the opportunities for the sustainable use of existing forest resources, and REDD+ debates to date have been unclear on the role of sustainable forest management of existing forest resources. This has meant that the key benefits offered by the system of sustainable forest management has been overlooked, including in particular the important interrelationships between good governance and sustainable forest management.

REDD+ is focusing much of its efforts on curbing deforestation. Countries with low deforestation (LD) rates are currently lacking proper support by REDD+. This is why more and more countries with low deforestation rates start to speak out their concerns regarding the path which is taken by REDD+ debates.

Sustainable forest management is crucial to all those low deforestation countries which form part of a future REDD+ program either they possess high forest or low forest cover. To overcome the leakage problem in forest area utilization it’s inevitable to include all rainforest countries to the global REDD+ scheme, also those countries with low deforestation rates.

It is therefore essential to address also low deforestation countries in the context of the REDD+ program and to give incentives for promoting and establishing sustainable forest management systems.

You may want to read further some IIED articles as well...

Here is another article you might be interested in...

REDD+ Finance and Safeguards

Editors Note: some years later, FAO came to the same conclusions than ForestIndustries.EU

FAO: Better governance, better forestry

April, 2012. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). ASIA-PACIFIC FORESTS AND FORESTRY TO 2020. Forest Policy Brief 06. 2 pages


With pressure growing on natural resources in the Asia-Pacific region, good governance is becoming increasingly important in maintaining forests and the broad range of non-market benefits that they provide. Indications of falling governance standards across the region suggest that a large proportion of the social and environmental benefits of forests to current and future generations may be lost, along with timber revenues and other market values. With increasing national and international interest in forestry and recent development of measures aimed at eliminating international trade in illegally sourced forest products, Asia-Pacific forestry now has a chance to address governance issues and move towards a greener and more equitable path.


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Sustainable Forest Management and Good Governance – Crucial Keys to REDD+


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