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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 84-95

Learning From 'Actually Existing' REDD+: A Synthesis of Ethnographic Findings

1 Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
2 School of Geography, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
3 Fenner School of Society and Environment, College of Science, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Wolfram Dressler
School of Geography, University of Melbourne, Melbourne
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_18_13

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The 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement on Climate reinforces actions to conserve and enhance forests as carbon reservoirs. A decade after sub-national demonstration projects to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) commenced, we examine why many REDD+ schemes appear to have fuelled social conflict while having limited success in addressing the drivers of forest loss and degradation. Our analysis is two-tiered: first we synthesise findings from a set of ethnographic case studies of REDD+ in Mainland Southeast Asia, conducted by the authors; second, we explore whether the insights from our regional synthesis apply globally, through a comparative review of published qualitative research on REDD+ field experiences. Our results reveal three major implementation dynamics that can undermine REDD+ in practice, which we conceptualise from science and technology studies and critical political ecology as follows: 1) problems with the enrolment of governments, civil society, and local forest users in REDD+ governance; 2) the prevalence of overly simplified codification systems for REDD+ implementation that mismatch targeted societies and landscapes; and 3) the consequent dissonance between REDD+ objectives and outcomes. Together, these problematic dynamics reveal how and why REDD+ so often misses its targets of reducing deforestation and delivering community benefits. In effect, it appears that REDD+ in the course of implementation maps onto local power structures and political economies, rendering it blunt as tool for change. The potential of REDD+ as a 'solution' in the global climate regime must therefore be scrutinized, along with other similar mechanisms espoused by the green economy.

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