Framing and constituting REDD+

In this PhD research I analyze the framing and the design of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and its consequences for multi-level trends in forest governance.

REDD+ is a policy method that enables countries or companies to reduce their carbon footprint by investing in the maintenance or enhancement of forests in developing countries so as to store carbon. Various forms of REDD+ are currently being discussed and designed by actors operating at the international, national and project level. This includes but is certainly not limited to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. These state and non-state actors all have different, potentially competing discourses on what REDD+ should achieve and how it should be governed. Whose discourses are prominent and become reflected in policy outcomes largely determines who has power to decide how REDD+ should be designed, what benefits REDD+ should generate for whom, and who should bear the (financial) costs of this. Multiple claims have been made regarding the effects of REDD+ on long-standing forest governance. This thesis analyzes how existing discourses around REDD+ shape the constitution of REDD+ policies and practices, and with what consequences for multi-level trends in forest governance. It focuses on discourses around 1) what REDD+ should achieve: carbon versus non-carbon objectives; 2) who should monitor REDD+ outcomes: technical experts alone versus also local communities; 3) at what level REDD+ should be governed: national versus sub-national level; and 4) how REDD+ should be financed: market- versus fund-based financing. At the international level, the research focuses on whether and how the monitoring, reporting and verification of REDD+ stimulates a carbonization—i.e. a prime focus on carbon as measurable output of forest governance—and technicalization of forest governance—i.e. the empowerment of technical experts at the cost of those who do not possess technical expertise, including local communities. At the national level, the study analyzes how REDD+ is framed and constituted and what consequences this has for multi-level trends such as carbonization, technicalization and a possible centralization and marketization of forest governance. This part of the research includes an in-depth analysis of India’s national REDD+ strategy and its impacts on long-standing forest conservation policies and practices in India. It also contains a comparative analysis of the prominence of discourses among national policy actors and in national REDD+ strategies in 7 countries. Finally, the analysis at the project level consists of a case study of how REDD+ is framed and constituted by stakeholders and in the project design of the first Indian REDD+ pilot project.

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