Tenure is the Central Feature of REDD+ Readiness

Global climate change cannot be addressed effectively through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) without addressing land tenure and property rights systems. Critics of REDD+ initiatives fear that it could undermine indigenous and local claims as national governments enforce their central authority over forests.

USAID’s issue brief on Land Tenure and REDD+ identifies land tenure as the foundation for REDD+ success. The brief identifies critical challenges to REDD+ readiness and key priorities to ensure that REDD+ contributes to tenure security. Critical challenges include defining stakeholders, defining rights, and establishing responsibilities.

Political will to address land tenure and governance at both the national and local levels is crucial. Without clearly defining the rights of local stakeholders to participate in the governance of forests and share in the benefits from REDD+ management, there is a fear that the benefits from REDD+ will be captured mostly by central governments and political elites. Local stakeholders whose rights and claims are not adequately considered in REDD+ planning and implementation may continue to practice land uses that ultimately negate any additional carbon sequestered through REDD+ projects.

The right to full and effective participation will be challenged by REDD+ efforts being coordinated at the national level, which may prioritize expediency, statutory law, and centralization. Meanwhile, the right to benefit from carbon transactions is ill-defined, as is the responsibility to manage and protect forests. These challenges must be tackled by national governments in the early stages of REDD+ readiness. Rights of different stakeholders must be clarified and contesting claims managed prior to establishing REDD+ in an area.

In order to ensure that REDD+ contributes to tenure security, the issue brief recommends three priorities:

  • Find the proper blend of centralization and decentralization to coordinate activities, reduce transaction costs, avoid corruption, and protect rights;
  • Validate overlapping rights to trees, water, pastures, and sub-soils claimed by multiple stakeholders;
  • Utilize standards as a tool for safeguarding rights in forest carbon projects.

See here for more information on land tenure and climate change.