Potential for synthesis between REDD+ and community forest management as understood through the lens of global political ecology
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Global climate change is one of the defining issues of the 21st century. The phenomenon of natural climate variation being pushed beyond normal ranges has been fueled largely by industrial activities and those which support them (i.e. land-use change and the over-exploitation of natural resources). The urgency is well established with reports demonstrating an increased occurrence of rare, highly damaging weather events, and shifts in the natural range of species. The necessity of action on climate change has resulted in the development of novel global initiatives designed to address the problem across global and regional scales. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) is emblematic of this new wave of conservation strategy. It brings together parties which are often seen as opposed on environmental issues in collaborative environmental practise. This thesis explores the development of REDD+ as an effective and equitable solutions to this problem. REDD+ is a policy architecture designed for global deployment, the success of which will depend largely upon the engagement and involvement of local community groups. Community forest management (CFM) may inform the REDD+ design process, and enhance both land-use strategies by way of synergy. The pathway to that point is, however, uncertain and marred with potential pitfalls. This thesis uses the instructive and critical lens of political ecology to assess the potential for integrating greater CFM elements into the REDD+ policy structure. It explores how the narratives of CFM and REDD+ clash at discursive levels, while also identifying elements of each which may make them mutually beneficial. The thesis finds that much of the conflict between positions on REDD+ are the result of contrasting environmental understandings, some of which are informed by negative experiences with past environmental conservation initiatives. Greater community-centric attributes may assist in improving the local and regional acceptability of REDD+ projects by appealing to the “alternative” values of forest-dependent peoples. Some suggested policy modifications are made to improve the overall design of REDD+ to be inclusive of the concerns of forest user groups, and potential areas for future research projects are discussed.