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  • Beyond opportunity costs: who bears the implementation costs of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation?

Beyond opportunity costs: who bears the implementation costs of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation?

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Authors: Luttrell, C.; Sills, E.O.; Aryani, R.; Ekaputri, A.D.; Evnike, M.F.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) in developing countries is based on the premise that conserving tropical forests is a cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions and therefore can be fully funded by international actors with obligations or interests in reducing emissions. However, concerns have repeatedly been raised about whether stakeholders in REDD+ host countries will actually end up bearing the costs of REDD+. Most prior analyses of the costs of REDD+ have focused on the opportunity costs of foregone alternative uses of forest land. We draw on a pan-tropical study of 22 subnational REDD+ initiatives in five countries to explore patterns in implementation costs, including which types of organizations are involved and which are sharing the costs of implementing REDD+. We find that many organizations involved in the implementation of REDD+, particularly at the subnational level and in the public sector, are bearing implementation costs not covered by the budgets of the REDD+ initiatives. To sustain this level of cost-sharing, REDD+ must be designed to deliver local as well as global forest benefits.

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 1381-2386

Source: Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change

DOI: 10.1007/s11027-016-9736-6

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  • World Wetlands Day: The human element of mangrove management

World Wetlands Day: The human element of mangrove management

Study on above-ground and below-ground biomass in mangrove ecosystems, part of Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP). Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Kate Evans Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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Study on above-ground and below-ground biomass in mangrove ecosystems, part of Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP). Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Kate Evans Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Study on above-ground and below-ground biomass in mangrove ecosystems, part of Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP). Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Kate Evans Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

By Stephen Brooks, Land Tenure and Resource Governance Advisor for USAID, originally published at USAID Medium, from which it was adapted for CIFOR’s Forests News

As global climate change continues to threaten coastal communities in the tropics, governments have increasingly focused on the promotion and conservation of mangrove forests for their protective qualities.

Mangroves — trees and shrubs that grow in tropical estuaries — are among the world’s most productive ecosystems and, compared to other forest systems, have an impressive capacity to sequester and store carbon at high rates.

They also serve as an important physical buffer, protecting coastal areas from storm surges and acting as “bioshields.” Despite these clear benefits, since 1980 the world has lost approximately 20 percent of its mangrove forests.

With this in mind, there is a growing need to understand the factors- both biophysical and societal- that contribute to sustainable mangrove management.

Also read: Why should we care about coastal blue carbon?

To date, discussions around mangrove forest conservation and rehabilitation have been highly technical, and focused primarily on ecological conditions under which mangroves can be planted and promoted. Lacking from this conversation is a more robust analysis about the ways land governance, resource rights arrangements, and land use planning — the social aspects of the conservation challenge — affect mangrove conservation and rehabilitation.

Compared to terrestrial forests, mangroves’ unique placement straddling land and sea has led to great ambiguity as to the specific jurisdictional agency overseeing their management (i.e. Forest, Aquaculture, and Marine) in many countries.

Regardless, local land and resource governance systems often determine the ultimate success or failure of resource conservation efforts. Research and experience from around the world have increasingly shown that when communities are empowered and granted legitimate rights and authority to manage their own terrestrial forests, the community, the government, and the forest ecology benefit in numerous ways.

More rigorous research is needed, however, to explore whether coastal forests, given their unique and often ambiguous jurisdictional status, would experience similar benefits.

In 2016, the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supported the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) to analyze mangrove governance conditions at the global scale, and through specific case studies in Indonesia and Tanzania.

Click to browse Global Wetlands Map
Click to browse Global Wetlands Map


Findings from the research show that mangroves generally fall under the management of national governments. In many countries, mangroves are under the jurisdiction of multiple ministries and agencies, creating a maze of overlapping and vague responsibilities that deliver little protection on the ground.

Mangroves are also often relegated to the periphery of forest sector management, with few practices or policies devised to specifically address their unique needs.

Typically, mangroves are classified as protected areas, but forest officials responsible for mangrove management often lack the resources and capacity needed to effectively protect them. Compounding this challenge are local communities who continue to be active users of mangrove forests, but who do not have clear or documented rights and incentives to sustainably use or protect them for the long term.

Countries are recognizing the importance of identifying mangrove management approaches that deliver results on the ground. In Tanzania, there is a growing recognition of the weakness of top-down mangrove protection approaches. Joint forest management and group rehabilitation schemes with local communities are increasingly being proposed in an effort to foster more community-led management processes.

In Indonesia, local community leaders are spearheading mangrove conservation efforts after understanding the ability of mangroves to protect their coastal homes and livelihoods. Intact mangroves can reduce the loss of life and damage caused by tsunamis, and during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, coastal areas that were protected by mangrove forests were better able to withstand the devastating impacts of that disaster.

Some countries, seeing the critical role of mangroves, have proved to be more forward-looking. Both the Philippines and Thailand have laws and policies that enable community forestry practices and management. Vietnam recently approved a Coastal Forests Decree that calls for an analysis on how coastal forests are measured, classified, managed, and protected. Sri Lanka has an ambitious plan to protect its mangroves through a mix of laws, sustainable alternative incomes, and mangrove nurseries.


The recent analysis also explored the intersection of mangrove conservation and gender. To date, little research has been conducted on the unique ways that men and women use, participate in, and impact mangrove systems, nor the ways that current resource governance systems prevent women’s participation in decision-making around coastal community resources.

The research found that while women are often keen to engage in paid employment for raising mangrove seedlings in nurseries, planting mangroves, or setting up enterprises to prepare products from mangroves — such as honey, syrups, or natural dyes — they rarely have a seat at the table when it comes to mangrove management.

As countries consider how to support the important biophysical aspects of mangrove conservation, the role of people, rights, and governance institutions should receive equal consideration. Mangroves play a key role in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of global climate change. To conserve and sustain them, it is imperative that we establish and strengthen the right mix of socially inclusive and participatory governance institutions.

*This article was adapted from its original form as published by USAID on Medium.

For more information on this topic, please contact Stephen Brooks at sbrooks@usaid.gov or Steven Lawry at s.lawry@cgiar.org.
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.
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  • Research to enhance transparency in Indonesia’s land sector

Research to enhance transparency in Indonesia’s land sector

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Click to watch Steve Lawry's presentation
Click to watch Steve Lawry’s presentation

In January, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry presented its latest research on land-sector transparency to a multi-stakeholder workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The National Workshop on Translating [the] Transparency Framework under [the] Paris Agreement Into [the] National Context, hosted by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry on 26 January, was attended by more than 300 representatives from government, civil society, international aid agencies and more.

Steven Lawry, Director of CIFOR’s Forests and Governance Research Portfolio, at the event presented a recently published infobrief on the role of non-state actors and corporate pledges in enhancing transparency under the Paris Agreement. The research was last presented to global decision-makers by CIFOR at COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco in November 2016.

The focus of the workshop was Indonesia’s preparations to meet its obligations under the ‘Enhanced Transparency Framework’ established under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The workshop introduced to a wide range of stakeholders the structure, reporting protocols and management support systems underlying Indonesia’s National Registry System on climate change mitigation and adaptation and resources (SRN-PPI). The SRN-PPI builds on and links to the existing national systems for greenhouse gas inventory and monitoring, reporting and verification.

Click to read the related Infobrief
Click to read the related Infobrief

Lawry reported strong interest from stakeholders in CIFOR’s research on the opportunities and obstacles to bringing non-state actors into the transparency framework.

“There was a good discussion about market drivers of private sector commitments, the global character of the drivers, and the complexities of forecasting and capturing their consequences for national-level planning,” Lawry said.

“There was also discussion of the complexity of the private sector and its variable characteristics, and ability to take up mitigation and adaptation practices, among many other topics,” he added.

Read more on this topic on Forests News here.

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  • Enhancing transparency in the land sector under the Paris Agreement: Bringing contributions of non-state actors and corporate pledges into national-level climate reporting

Enhancing transparency in the land sector under the Paris Agreement: Bringing contributions of non-state actors and corporate pledges into national-level climate reporting

Click to watch Steve Lawry's presentation
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Presentation by Steven Lawry, Research Director for Governance, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), at the National Workshop on Translating Transparency Framework under the Paris Agreement into National Context, 26 January 2017, Jakarta, Indonesia.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • Enhancing transparency in the land sector under the Paris Agreement: Non-state actors and corporate pledges, from rhetoric to reality

Enhancing transparency in the land sector under the Paris Agreement: Non-state actors and corporate pledges, from rhetoric to reality

Click to read the related Infobrief
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Authors: Gnych, S.; Leonard, S.; Pacheco, P.; Lawry, S.; Martius, C.

Key messages

  • Article 13 of the Paris Agreement calls for enhanced transparency in climate actions. At the same time, non-state actors (NSAs) are increasingly referred to within the text of decisions and initiatives by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, the continued use of such a broad and undefined term to represent a complex set of stakeholders – ranging from academia to private sector, civil society to indigenous peoples groups – is unhelpful. There cannot be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to NSAs
  • The private sector is a complex and diverse sub-set of NSAs, with significant variations in capacity, motivations and priorities across companies and value chains. Their response to climate change will be key to setting and achieving the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) made by Parties to the UNFCCC.
  • A large number of international corporations have made voluntary commitments to reduce their negative environmental and social impacts in the agriculture and forestry sectors, within their own operations as well as those of third-party suppliers. Many of these pledges have now been registered on the UNFCCC non-state actor platform (NAZCA). As yet, however, there is no systematic way to track and verify these pledges and their impacts.
  • One major risk is that stringent and rapidly implemented corporate commitments related to sustainable and ‘deforestation free’ supply chains will exclude already marginalized smallholders, who often operate within broader informal economies, resulting in indirect detrimental social and environmental impacts. Aside from the Cancun safeguards, such risks remain unrecognized by the UNFCCC.
  • Public funds, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), could be used to financially support smallholders and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and upgrade their production systems through the adoption of improved practices and by facilitating their access to sustainable supply chains.
  • Governments, indigenous peoples groups and civil society organizations, as well as corporations themselves, are monitoring the progress and impact of NSA pledges at different spatial scales. But significant challenges remain regarding the alignment of methods, metrics and data sets, disclosure of information, and the verification and monitoring of indirect impacts.
  • There is currently no systematic way to track delivery of voluntary commitments through transparent processes that are open to wider society. Additional efforts, including national and international political architectures are needed.
  • There is justification for the UNFCCC to develop guidance around NSA engagement in climate mitigation and adaptation actions. This can help to distinguish between different groups of NSAs and track the activities undertaken by diverse private sector actors, to better understand how they contribute to achieving NDCs.

Series: CIFOR Infobrief no. 157

Pages: 8p.

Publisher: Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia

Publication Year: 2016

DOI: 10.17528/cifor/006257

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  • Addressing Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Together: A Global Assessment of Agriculture and Forestry Projects

Addressing Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Together: A Global Assessment of Agriculture and Forestry Projects

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Authors: Rico Kongsager, Bruno Locatelli, Florie Chazarin

Adaptation and mitigation share the ultimate purpose of reducing climate change impacts. However, they tend to be considered separately in projects and policies because of their different objectives and scales. Agriculture and forestry are related to both adaptation and mitigation: they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and removals, are vulnerable to climate variations, and form part of adaptive strategies for rural livelihoods. We assessed how climate change project design documents (PDDs) considered a joint contribution to adaptation and mitigation in forestry and agriculture in the tropics, by analyzing 201 PDDs from adaptation funds, mitigation instruments, and project standards [e.g., climate community and biodiversity (CCB)]. We analyzed whether PDDs established for one goal reported an explicit contribution to the other (i.e., whether mitigation PDDs contributed to adaptation and vice versa). We also examined whether the proposed activities or expected outcomes allowed for potential contributions to the two goals. Despite the separation between the two goals in international and national institutions, 37 % of the PDDs explicitly mentioned a contribution to the other objective, although only half of those substantiated it. In addition, most adaptation (90 %) and all mitigation PDDs could potentially report a contribution to at least partially to the other goal. Some adaptation project developers were interested in mitigation for the prospect of carbon funding, whereas mitigation project developers integrated adaptation to achieve greater long-term sustainability or to attain CCB certification. International and national institutions can provide incentives for projects to harness synergies and avoid trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation.

Environmental Management, February 2016, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 271–282


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  • Climate change: Time to combine mitigation and adaptation

Climate change: Time to combine mitigation and adaptation

It is important to combine climate change mitigation (here ICRAF's SAMPLES program for smallholders) and adaptation. Photo: ICRAF
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It is important to combine climate change mitigation (here ICRAF's SAMPLES program for smallholders) and adaptation. Photo: ICRAF
It is important to combine climate change mitigation (here ICRAF’s SAMPLES program for smallholders) and adaptation measures. Photo: ICRAF

Yoly Gutierrez interviewed scientist Bruno Locatelli on improving the design of climate change projects, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

To combat climate change, one can avoid it via mitigation, or cope with it via adaptation. Even though these objectives are two sides of the same coin, their synergies and conflicts tend to be overlooked.

“Because of the way international negotiations and national policies have separated adaptation from mitigation, two different communities of practices have emerged and they don’t talk to each other,” says Bruno Locatelli, a scientist working for the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and CIRAD, a French research institute specializing in international agricultural and development issues.

“This separation also occurs on the ground, as projects developed to fight climate change tend to match donor or policy requirements, which generally focus on either adaptation or mitigation.”

This conclusion was drawn after Locatelli and his colleagues analyzed 201 project documents from across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Researchers were surprised to find that 42 percent of the mitigation project documents mentioned a contribution to adaptation while 30 percent of the adaptation project documents mentioned a contribution to mitigation. What’s more, they found, most or all of these projects contained opportunities to contribute to the other objective.

Locatelli spoke with Forests News on the importance of marrying the two to achieve better results when it comes to climate change.

Why is it important for mitigation and adaptation strategies to be combined in climate policy?

In climate change discussions and negotiations, we tend to address the cause of climate change (via mitigation) and its consequences for people and ecosystems (via adaptation) separately. This makes sense analytically because mitigation and adaptation have effects at different timeframes (long vs. short term, respectively) and spatial scales (global vs. local). It makes also sense for some sectors; for example, energy tends to be concerned mostly by mitigation because of its large emissions, whereas health is mostly concerned by adaptation because of its sensitivity to climate variations, such as heat waves.

Photo: CIFOR

But when it comes to on-the-ground activities in land-use sectors such as forestry and agriculture, it does not make sense to separate adaptation and mitigation objectives because land-use management affects both the volume of emissions and the vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate variations.

Forests and trees produce multiple ecosystem services that are relevant to fight climate change: they store carbon (mitigation) and they protect local communities from climate impacts (adaptation) by regulating water, reducing soil losses, protecting coasts from storms, and diversifying livelihoods.

When a mitigation project in forestry (such as a REDD+ project) aims at livelihood diversification, this may be a first step toward thinking how diversification can reduce people’s vulnerability to climate variations and toward increasing adaptive capacity.

You cannot say that you will plant one tree for its adaptation benefits and another one for its mitigation benefits. Focusing on solely one objective and forgetting the other can be dangerous because of the potential trade-offs and adverse effects.

What are some examples of these trades-offs?

An example is related to reforestation. If I want to maximize carbon sequestration in one area facing the problem of water scarcity and I start a forest plantation with intensive management and fast-growing tree species that consume a lot of water, it wouldn’t add up. Sure, I would achieve my goal of addressing global climate change by removing carbon from the atmosphere, but I would exacerbate the local water problems. People living downstream may suffer water shortages and become more vulnerable to climate change.

Another example is related to adaptation in agriculture. For example, I can reduce the vulnerability of agriculture to drought by using energy-intensive irrigation, or by increasing fertilization, both of which would emit more greenhouse gas. My crops would be less sensitive to climate change but I would contribute to an increase in global climate change.

It sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? But this is what happens when we think too narrowly about either adaptation or mitigation.

Photo: CIFOR
When I am sick, my doctor tries to fight the cause and the consequences of the disease at the same time. If an infection (the cause) results in high fever (the consequence) and a doctor gives me medicine that treats the infection but increases the fever, we are in the same situation as with mitigation initiatives having adverse effects on adaptation.

If this doctor gives me medicine that lowers the fever but increases the infection, we are in the same situation as with adaptation initiatives having adverse effects on mitigation. In both cases, the narrow analysis of the doctor can lead to severe problems. This is exactly what could happen with climate change initiatives that fail to see the big picture.

So should all projects and policies address adaptation and mitigation jointly?

We should not force the integration of adaptation and mitigation in all projects and policies. Project developers and policymakers must have a good reason to do it. But first, they must be aware that this is possible.

Many opportunities for integrating adaptation and mitigation in the agriculture and forestry sectors can be captured without forcing a marriage between adaptation and mitigation through the provision of adequate information, tools and guidance to project developers or policy makers, as well as by providing incentives.

How can international funds and standards help projects to harness synergies?

The institutional settings of most international climate funds do not create incentives for projects to search for synergies between adaptation and mitigation. International funds could provide more information and technical assistance, or prioritize projects that integrate both goals or assess the costs and benefits of considering the other goal. For example, mitigation projects that assess climate risks and decide on integrating adaptation.

There is hope that the development of the Green Climate Fund can lead to better consideration of synergies between adaptation and mitigation. This organization could ensure that projects capture opportunities to provide multiple adaptation and mitigation benefits without excessively increasing project cycle complexity and costs.

The Green Climate Fund could test innovative approaches to the integration of adaptation and mitigation and stimulate changes at the national level in recipient countries and at the local scale in projects, contributing to the mainstreaming of climate change in development.

International standards can also play a role in improving the integration of adaptation and mitigation. For example, we saw in our analysis that mitigation project documents developed in the framework of the Climate Community Biodiversity standards more often described adaptation measures and outcomes, as these standards provide guidance on adaptation and require adaptation to be addressed to achieve a Gold Level certification.

Verification on the ground of implemented projects could help us understand whether such standards make a real difference in practice, or whether they simply provide lip service by adding adaptation elements in project documents.

For more information on this topic, please contact Bruno Locatelli at B.Locatelli@cgiar.org.
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.
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  • Increasing accountability in the Paris Agreement

Increasing accountability in the Paris Agreement

An aerial shot shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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An aerial shot shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
An aerial shot shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

By Niki de Sy, originally posted at CIFOR’s Forests News

Many countries have included agriculture, forestry and other land use targets in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to fight climate change as part of the Paris Agreement.

The land use sector is particularly important because it holds many links to food security, economy, well being, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This sector is also unique because of its huge carbon sink potential. In developing countries, land use change (i.e. deforestation) and agriculture are often the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Unfortunately, emissions from land use change are notoriously hard to quantify and monitoring capacities in many developing countries remain low.

The Enhanced Transparency Framework was established to enable the tracking, comparing and understanding of national commitments worldwide to fight climate change. Countries will need to provide necessary information to track progress towards implementing and achieving their NDCs and on reducing GHG emissions.

This information will be used for a Global Stocktake conducted every five years. The Paris Agreement also encourages other stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector, to participate in efforts to address and respond to climate change.

Also read Infobrief on transparency and the Paris Agreement
Also read Infobrief on transparency and the Paris Agreement

This means that land use sector information will be needed for quantifying and tracking progress made at the local, national and global levels, as well as for guiding local mitigation planning and implementation of land use activities, and the accountability of actions and stakeholders (i.e. for tracking corporate ‘zero deforestation’ commitments).

A variety of stakeholders (governments, private sector, land managers, etc.) will increasingly look for trusted and reliable information, ready to-use methods and open-source solutions that would allow them to assess the state, dynamics and drivers of change regarding land resources, livelihoods, social protections and equity indicators.

There is a need for enhanced monitoring approaches that stakeholders can use to achieve their own goals, but that would also be perceived as transparent and legitimate by other stakeholders. They should also support accountability of all stakeholders within the framework of the Paris Agreement.


It is clear that beyond the efforts of national governments to monitor their emissions from the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector, there is a need for additional monitoring approaches. A recent infobrief published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) provides insight into the role of independent monitoring approaches in enhancing transparency in the land use sector.

Results from a multi-stakeholder survey show that independent monitoring does not mean one specific tool, but rather a diversity of approaches with the purpose of increasing transparency and broadening stakeholder participation by providing free and open methods, data, and tools complementary to mandated reporting by national governments.

The CIFOR study gives key recommendations on how stakeholders can engage and benefit from independent monitoring. The authors recommend developing a practice of ‘data bridging’, not imposing a one-size-fits-all system, but rather simplifying and streamlining the dialogue between data users and producers.

The scientific community could play an important role by developing harmonized reference data, and guidance and training materials to make the best use of available data and information sources as it increases opportunities for participation and transparency.

Countries seeking to implement forest and agriculture-related mitigation actions could increase the use of open and ready-to-use tools to encourage participatory monitoring.

UNFCCC negotiators and reviewers could contribute by providing modalities and good practice guidelines for enhancing transparency and accountability in the land-use sector.

While the report provides a good starting point for discussions on enhanced transparency in the land use sector and the implications for monitoring, there are many other thorny issues that need to be considered going forth.

One major challenge will be to integrate biophysical information, obtained by field inventories and remote sensing, with survey and census data on livelihoods, social protection and equity indicators to better understand land use dynamics.

We should not only monitor climate goals, but also institutional change and social processes, which makes this even more complicated. Multiple sources and types of monitoring and reporting (i.e. national forest monitoring system, independent monitoring, private sector commitment tracking) will have to co-exist and be integrated into a multi-level, flexible and diverse system.

This is clearly an enormous task that demands a transdisciplinary approach. Enhancing transparency will require a giant effort, but it will hopefully lead to much-needed transformational changes to realize the full potential of the Paris Agreement, and beyond.

For more information on this topic, please contact Niki de Sy at niki.desy@wur.nl or Christopher Martius at c.martius@cgiar.org.
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • The cost of oversimplification

The cost of oversimplification

Photo by Ricky Martin/CIFOR.
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By Barbara Fraser, originally published CIFOR’s Forests News

Photo by Terry Sunderland/CIFOR.
Photo by Terry Sunderland/CIFOR.

Let’s assume you want to conserve a large, widely-forested watershed by compensating people for not cutting down trees. Would it be more effective to choose the most threatened, erosion-prone areas first? Would it be best to offer higher payments for the most strategic spots? Or should you offer the same payment per hectare to everyone, to avoid jealousy and keep transaction costs down?

Einstein once said: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” This quest for the right level of sophistication also applies to payments for environmental services (PES).

A recent meta-study of 55 PES schemes from around the world sheds some light on what payment strategies work best, under particular circumstances, to bring about optimal environmental impacts.

The study found some surprising patterns, says Sven Wunder, a scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and co-author of the report.

“Considering the large diversity of experiences worldwide, we found that PES schemes fell into three neat clusters,” Wunder says. Some are implemented by governments, others are coordinated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and still others are private commercial ventures. The three groups all have different characteristics.

“Previous studies focused largely on public versus private models, but we also found a difference between private, commercial, and typical NGO schemes in terms of focus, relationship with markets, and other factors,” Wunder says. “The type of implementer and the characteristics of the PES scheme tend to go hand in hand.”

When a single ecosystem is to provide many ecological services, for example, it is easiest for the scheme to be managed by a government, which can act as a custodian for the many different players involved.

Non-governmental organizations may manage compensation for services such as biodiversity conservation, using funding from foundations, or perhaps companies that have a special interest in a certain area.

Private schemes include carbon storage, where there is a mechanism for trading credits, or watershed conservation, in which payments could be gleaned from hydroelectric power companies, water bottlers, or breweries.

A forest trail in the Unamat forest, Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, Peru (Marco Simola/CIFOR).
A forest trail in the Unamat forest, Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, Peru (Marco Simola/CIFOR).

The mix of types varies in different parts of the world, with public schemes dominating in Asia, Latin America and Europe, while the few schemes operating in Africa tend to have less public-sector involvement.

Forests tend to play an important role in all three types of PES schemes—public, private non-governmental and private commercial, the study found.


So what determines whether or not a PES model is likely to make a positive environmental difference, known as an “additionality”?

Using a simple “yes-or-no” distinction, the study found three key factors related to implementation.

First is whether the implementers target places that offer great possibility for gains, such as biodiversity hotspots, and places that are threatened, such as areas of high deforestation. Both forms of targeting offer possibilities for making a noticeable environmental difference.

Second is offering different payment rates, depending on the goal. Paying more for ecosystem services in cloud forest than other forests, as Mexico has done in its national watershed PES scheme, creates an additional incentive to protect a strategic ecosystem for capturing water. Especially vulnerable ecosystems—such as forest close to a road, where the threat of deforestation is higher—can also be better preserved if higher payments are offered.

Geographic targeting and differentiated payments may go hand in hand for greater effectiveness.

“Combining them helps ensure that you get the right people and land areas into your PES scheme,” Wunder says. “Targeting means you pre-screen who can take part in the scheme. Once you have decided that, you can offer to pay more for some features, making it more attractive for those special landowners or resource stewards to join.”

The third factor is whether penalties are applied for non-compliance with PES contracts —what the researchers call “enforced conditionality.” Failure to comply with the terms of a PES scheme usually carries a sanction, but those punishments often are not carried out, Wunder says. Failure to monitor and enforce compliance with the PES agreement can doom it to failure.

“Many of the schemes we looked at in our study have never punished anybody,” Wunder says. “They all monitor compliance, to some extent, but the real test is whether they sanction non-compliance. Often, that’s a political choice, because punishing people by cutting their payments can have a high political cost.”


Wunder and his colleagues from the French research center CIRAD (Agricultural Research for Development) hope to expand the study, adding more case studies and examining in more detail which types of schemes have the greatest impact or “additionality”.

Meanwhile, Wunder says, policymakers can learn from their present findings.

“The lesson is that it’s costly to oversimplify,” he says. “Many implementers still choose the easy way out—not targeting, paying the same amount per hectare or per family, and lax attitudes towards sanctioning.”

Even when penalties for non-compliance with PES agreements are stated clearly in contracts, it can be convenient to turn a blind eye, because punishing people can have a political cost.

“Our study shows that if you take the easiest route, with too many shortcuts, the likelihood for under-performance of PES is greater,” Wunder says.

This study is part of the PESMIX project with the French research center CIRAD (Agricultural Research for Development).

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  • Can conservation funding be left to carbon finance? Evidence from participatory future land use scenarios in Peru, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Mexico

Can conservation funding be left to carbon finance? Evidence from participatory future land use scenarios in Peru, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Mexico

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Authors: Ravikumar, A.; Larjavaara, M.; Larson, A.M.; Kanninen, M.

Revenues derived from carbon have been seen as an important tool for supporting forest conservation over the past decade. At the same time, there is high uncertainty about how much revenue can reasonably be expected from land use emissions reductions initiatives. Despite this uncertainty, REDD+ projects and conservation initiatives that aim to take advantage of available or, more commonly, future funding from carbon markets have proliferated. This study used participatory multi-stakeholder workshops to develop divergent future scenarios of land use in eight landscapes in four countries around the world: Peru, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Mexico. The results of these future scenario building exercises were analyzed using a new tool, CarboScen, for calculating the landscape carbon storage implications of different future land use scenarios. The findings suggest that potential revenues from carbon storage or emissions reductions are significant in some landscapes (most notably the peat forests of Indonesia), and much less significant in others (such as the low-carbon forests of Zanzibar and the interior of Tanzania). The findings call into question the practicality of many conservation programs that hinge on expectations of future revenue from carbon finance. The future scenarios-based approach is useful to policy-makers and conservation program developers in distinguishing between landscapes where carbon finance can substantially support conservation, and landscapes where other strategies for conservation and land use should be prioritized.

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 1748-9326

Source: Environmental Research Letters 12: 014015

DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa5509

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  • Host country governance and the African land rush: 7 reasons why large-scale farmland investments fail to contribute to sustainable development

Host country governance and the African land rush: 7 reasons why large-scale farmland investments fail to contribute to sustainable development

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Authors: Schoneveld, G.C.

The large social and environmental footprint of rising investor demand for Africa’s farmland has in recent years become a much-examined area of enquiry. This has produced a rich body of literature that has generated valuable insights into the underlying drivers, trends, social and environmental impacts, discursive implications, and global governance options. Host country governance dynamics have in contrast remained an unexplored theme, despite its central role in facilitating and legitimizing unsustainable farmland investments. This article contributes to this research gap by synthesizing results and lessons from 38 case studies conducted in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Zambia. It shows how and why large-scale farmland investments are often synonymous with displacement, dispossession, and environmental degradation and, thereby, highlights seven outcome determinants that merit more explicit treatment in academic and policy discourse.

Source: CIFOR Publications

Publication Year: 2016

ISSN: 0016-7185

Source: Geoforum

DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2016.12.007

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  • Guinea pig or pioneer: Translating global environmental objectives through to local actions in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia’s REDD+ pilot province

Guinea pig or pioneer: Translating global environmental objectives through to local actions in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia’s REDD+ pilot province

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Authors: Sanders, A.J.P.; da Silva Hyldmo, H.; Prasti H., R.D.; Ford, R.M.; Larson, A.M.; Keenan, R.J.

Many difficulties have arisen from top-down approaches to the design and implementation of global environmental initiatives. The concept of translation and other analytical features of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) can offer a way of conceptualising these difficulties and their practical effects. By translation, we refer to what happens in-between the formulation of international goals and the results of implementation, and more specifically, relations and negotiations within this broader process. We examine several aspects of translation in the case of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), a prominent global environmental initiative. Using an ethnographic approach, we explore local responses in Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia, to REDD+ ideas and goals that originate at international and national levels. Following selection in 2010 as the official REDD+ pilot province, Central Kalimantan became a site for the convergence of actors and projects with varied sources of funding. The study identifies a central tension that emerged between an initial vision of Central Kalimantan as a pioneer, and local concerns about being used as an experimental subject or ‘guinea pig’ for the testing of externally designed schemes. Results show that greater flexibility in the design of programs and initiatives is needed, to provide space for local inputs. Implementation should pay attention to how local actors are included in planning processes that inform decision-making at higher jurisdictional levels. To bring about intended changes in land use, programs like REDD+ need to extend beyond a focus on short-term projects and targets, to instead emphasise long-term investments and forms of collective action that support learning.

Source: CIFOR Publications

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 0959-3780

Source: Global Environmental Change 42: 68-81

DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.12.003

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  • Harnessing multi-purpose productive landscapes for integrated climate and development goals

Harnessing multi-purpose productive landscapes for integrated climate and development goals

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By Peter Holmgren, originally published on CIFOR’s Forests News

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) welcomes the ratification and early entry into force of the Paris Agreement. This is a major step towards effective global climate action. We also welcome the recent progress on REDD+ results based payments at the Green Climate Fund.

The land sector will be key in achieving the well below 2 or 1.5 degree goal agreed in Paris and this is clearly reflected in the long term goal of net zero emissions, Article 5 and the Preamble of the Agreement. This role however is not limited to that of forests or agriculture in isolation, but across the landscape. It will be the actions that are taken on the ground by smallholder farmers, local communities, small to medium business and other non-state as well as State actors that will drive the outcomes concerning climate. Climate mitigation and adaptation will inevitably be a co benefit of the actions taken across the landscape.

We urge world leaders to emphasize integrated solutions that harness ecosystem services derived from intact, productive and adaptive landscapes, and to move away from the business-as-usual rhetoric of forest (or ecosystem) conversion for development. Integrating these objectives harmoniously in a complex world requires approaches that are based in science, are socially, culturally and environmentally responsible, and take the needs of all stakeholders into account through open, fair and equitable participation, and that are rooted in recognition of rights.

Uganda, 2008. ©Center For International Forestry Research/Douglas Sheil
©Center For International Forestry Research/Douglas Sheil

Our experience studying REDD+ over 6 years shows that there are no lasting climate solutions involving tropical forests if the livelihoods of the people in those forests are not sustained or improved – global environmental sustainability requires local economic sustainability. While action at the international level is important, international climate action meets the requirements of the world’s forest dependent communities when implemented on the ground.

Turning to the negotiations in Marrakesh, we are concerned that the international climate community was unable to come to an agreement on concrete next steps related to the agriculture agenda item. It is essential that moving forward, to implement the Paris Agreement and achieve the much needed transformational change, an approach that addresses agriculture as a major driver of deforestation, whilst putting in place measures at the international level to ensure food security and protect rights will be essential.

We welcome the road map that has been agreed in Marrakesh as an important step forward in terms of developing the rule-book to ensure the Paris Agreement is implemented. We hope to see the completion of this important work by 2018, in particular on topics concerning accounting for nationally determined contributions, adaptation communications, transparency and compliance. We hope this work will encourage parties to put in place the much-needed steps to increase their ambition. In this work, world leaders should place importance on the use of science and evidence as key to assessing and monitoring the performance of NDCs in policy and practice, across multiple sectors and levels of government.

We encourage countries to revise their NDCs to enhance ambition and address the operationalization of the agreed climate objectives, and doing so within multifunctional landscape objectives, clear strategy plans and actionable roadmaps, unambiguous designation of accountability, and effective participation of all sectors and levels of governments. This will require collaboration with non-state actors (from the corporate sectors to civil society) across those sectors, with enhanced transparency arrangements, while striving to avoid negative social and environmental impacts, especially on smallholder farmers and rural and indigenous communities.

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  • Peatland restoration: the role of agroforestry

Peatland restoration: the role of agroforestry

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FTA communications

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  • An integrative research framework for enabling transformative adaptation

An integrative research framework for enabling transformative adaptation

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Authors: Colloff, M.J.; Martín-López, B.; Lavorel, S.; Locatelli, B.; Gorddard, R.; Longaretti, P-Y.; Walters, G.; van Kerkhoff, L.; Wyborn, C.; Coreau, A.; Wise, R.M.; Dunlop, M.; Degeorges, P.; Grantham, H.; Overton, I.C.; Williams, R.D.; Doherty, M.D.; Capon, T.; Sanderson, T.; Murphy, H.T.

Transformative adaptation will be increasingly important to effectively address the impacts of climate change and other global drivers on social-ecological systems. Enabling transformative adaptation requires new ways to evaluate and adaptively manage trade-offs between maintaining desirable aspects of current social-ecological systems and adapting to major biophysical changes to those systems. We outline such an approach, based on three elements developed by the Transformative Adaptation Research Alliance (TARA): (1) the benefits of adaptation services; that sub-set of ecosystem services that help people adapt to environmental change; (2) The values-rules-knowledge perspective (vrk) for identifying those aspects of societal decision-making contexts that enable or constrain adaptation and (3) the adaptation pathways approach for implementing adaptation, that builds on and integrates adaptation services and the vrk perspective. Together, these elements provide a future-oriented approach to evaluation and use of ecosystem services, a dynamic, grounded understanding of governance and decision-making and a logical, sequential approach that connects decisions over time. The TARA approach represents a means for achieving changes in institutions and governance needed to support transformative adaptation.

Pages: 10p.

Publication Year: 2016

ISSN: 1462-9011

Source: Environmental Science and Policy

DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2016.11.007

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