An assessment of the transformational potential of REDD+ in tackling drivers of deforestation

Weatherley-Singh, Janice


This PhD thesis examines the evolution of the REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) initiative and its transformational potential to tackle drivers of tropical deforestation and forest degradation, from a networked governance perspective. It answers two overarching research questions: first, whether and how evolving conceptualisations of REDD+ have effectively tackled both direct and indirect drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, operating at different levels; and second, the extent to which REDD+ is becoming integrated across diverse policy domains, and how such integration (or lack thereof) impacts upon its ability to deliver transformational change. The research identifies evolving conceptualisations of REDD+ at local, landscape and international levels, which are able to address some local, direct drivers of deforestation and forest degradation but are less able to target indirect drivers operating at national and international levels. In particular, the weak point of the emerging REDD+ networked governance system lies at national level. Furthermore, analysis of the policy debate around the novel concept of ‘embodied deforestation’ within the European Union indicates that newly emerging policy initiatives at the international level are bringing together new configurations of stakeholders in informal decision-making structures, as a way to ‘leapfrog’ over REDD+ political inertia at national level. It remains to be seen, however, whether consuming countries will take the steps needed to move beyond political rhetoric and formally adopt such innovative policies. This thesis also shows that the positioning of REDD+ at the environmental and sustainable development policy nexus is becoming increasingly complex, with further integration now occurring with sustainable consumption and production policies. The thesis finds that REDD+ is becoming more strongly integrated with other policies within the environmental governance domain, but also (more weakly) with policy domains beyond the environmental realm. Although a more integrated approach to REDD+ has the potential to increase its effectiveness in addressing drivers and effecting transformational change, it also risks becoming overloaded by different and competing expectations, and/or being superseded and ultimately replaced by alternative policy mechanisms.