Climate Change, Forests, and International Law: REDD's Descent into Irrelevance

Wiersema, Annecoos
January 2014
Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law;Jan2014, Vol. 47 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
Forestry activities account for over 17 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2005, parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have been negotiating a mechanism known as REDD--Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation--to provide an incentive for developing countries to reduce carbon emissions and limit deforestation at the same time. When REDD was first proposed, many commentators argued this mechanism would not only mitigate climate change but also provide biodiversity and forests with the hard international law regime that had so far been missing. These commentators appeared to hope REDD would develop into this kind of hard international law regime. Their hope is unlikely to be fulfilled. This Article focuses on two aspects of REDD negotiations between 2005 and 2012--the changing scope of the REDD mechanism and the parties' decisions about the level of international oversight--and situates these developments within an overall international legal framework. Placing the negotiations in the context of REDD's international legal framework exposes their significance. The true story of REDD demonstrates that REDD is developing into a country-driven, voluntary mechanism with limited international oversight and with a scope that makes it extremely difficult to implement. In that sense, REDD has far more in common with the international legal regime that currently governs forests and biodiversity than with the hard law of the international legal regime that governs climate change. This Article concludes by pointing out two problems that result from not paying attention to the overall effect of the REDD negotiations. The first problem is misdirected focus. If the international community does not pay attention to the real story of REDD, it is likely to focus its energies on design questions at the international level and miss critically important aspects of REDD's implementation at the national and subnational level involving both private and public initiatives. The second problem is misdirected accountability. REDD's current scope makes it extremely difficult to administer and maintains an institutional infrastructure that lacks standardized and supranational oversight. Mechanisms for accountability for REDD's success or failure are lacking. Many commentators have warned that the biggest threat to climate change mitigation and biodiversity would be failure to implement REDD. This Article counters that the biggest threat to climate change mitigation and biodiversity is for REDD to go forward as it is currently being negotiated. If the international community does not pay attention to the real story of REDD, it will likely become nothing more than a cover for limited emissions reduction, weak forest protection, infringement of indigenous and local peoples' rights, and harm to biodiversity.


Related Articles

  • A review of the state of research, policies and strategies in addressing leakage from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). Atmadja, Stibniati; Verchot, Louis // Mitigation & Adaptation Strategies for Global Change;Mar2012, Vol. 17 Issue 3, p311 

    Leakage from policies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) must be monitored, measured and mitigated to ensure their effectiveness. This paper reviews research on leakage at the large (international and national) and small (subnational and project) scales to...

  • Too little, too late?  // Nature Climate Change;Jan2014, Vol. 4 Issue 1, p1 

    Information about topics discussed at the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference held in Warsaw, Poland in November 2013 is presented. Topics include greenhouse gas emissions, the decision to establish the Warsaw Framework for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation...

  • REDD +: The Paradox of International Carbon Trading.  // Washington Report on the Hemisphere;8/2/2013, Vol. 33 Issue 13, p4 

    The article focuses on the United Nations (UN) Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Programme (REDD+) as ineffective in atmospheric carbon reductions. An overview of carbon trading that was established as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is...

  • INDIGENOUS PEOPLE AND CUSTOMARY LAND OWNERSHIP UNDER DOMESTIC REDD+ FRAMEWORKS:A CASE STUDY OF INDONESIA. Wright, Glen // LEAD Journal (Law, Environment & Development Journal);2011, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p117 

    The article presents a case study of the interaction of indigenous people and customary land ownership under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Land Degradation (REDD+) and domestic legal frameworks in Indonesia. It provides an overview of the REDD+ negotiations such as the Conference of...

  • Splitting the Difference: A Proposal for Benefit Sharing in Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). Balderas Torres, Arturo; Skutsch, Margaret // Forests (19994907);Mar2012, Vol. 3 Issue 1, p137 

    The objective of REDD+ is to create incentives for the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and for the increase of carbon stocks through the enhancement, conservation and sustainable management of forests in developing countries. As part of the international...

  • Implementing REDD+ Under the UNFCCC: Basic Requirements and Guidance for Developing National Policy and Legal Frameworks. Chapman, Sophie; Wilder, Martijn; Millar, Ilona; Dibley, Arjuna // Carbon & Climate Law Review;2015, Vol. 9 Issue 2, p101 

    Around the world, many developing countries are considering the practicalities of implementing REDD+ at the national level. As a starting point, the requirements outlined by the UNFCCC and other international schemes (such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility or different voluntary...

  • Bargaining over a climate deal: deadline and delay. Courtois, Pierre; Tazdaït, Tarik // Annals of Operations Research;Sep2014, Vol. 220 Issue 1, p205 

    Assuming that a North-South transfer is the key to effective climate cooperation, we ask when and how much the North should offer to the South in return for a commitment to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. In light of the risk of irreversible damage over time, we examine a...


    The article presents information on the response of the design of the Kyoto Protocol regarding the problem of anthropogenic climate change. It discusses the principles for the international legal response to the climatic change and for the purpose of mitigating anthropogenic climate change....

  • Evolução da adaptação à mudança climática na agenda da ONU: vinte anos de avanços e descaminhos. Lindoso, Diego; Araújo Maria, Joana // Cuadernos de Geografia;jul-dic2013, Vol. 22 Issue 2, p107 

    Climate change, one of the main global risks humankind is currently facing, became a relevant issue on the international agenda in the last few decades. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adopted in 1992, includes both mitigation and adaptation strategies;...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics