Forest Carbon Rights Guidebook: A Tool for Framing Legal Rights to Carbon Benefits Generated Through REDD+ Programming

This guidebook is designed to enable development practitioners and policy makers to cultivate a deeper appreciation of carbon rights, the challenges associated with them, and their implications for REDD+ programming. Ultimately, the guidebook aims to assist practitioners to identify options for framing carbon rights in law that will yield positive outcomes for the environment and local communities.

Following a brief introduction to REDD+, the guidebook lays out a process for considering who should be entitled to receive benefits associated with REDD+ activities and the nature of those rights in order to create the appropriate incentives. Perfect solutions are unlikely, and the guidebook elucidates potential trade-offs practitioners are likely to face.

The process begins with gaining a more nuanced understanding of property rights and situating carbon rights within this concept (Phase 1). The guidebook then presents guidelines for assessing the relevant stakeholders in structuring REDD+ programs and their interests (Phase 2), followed by guidance to identify the appropriate beneficiaries—or carbon right holders—in order to cultivate the necessary incentives to meet REDD+ objectives (Phase 3). Here, consideration is given to the level at which compensation is provided and the potential implications of channeling benefits to different scales of beneficiaries.

The guidebook then provides analysis of the tenure situation and guidance on assessing rights to carbon, forest resources, and land within both customary and statutory law, particularly as these relate to the identified beneficiaries (Phase 4). Such analysis is designed to enable practitioners to establish where gaps, weaknesses, and conflicts exist in defining and structuring carbon rights to achieve REDD+ objectives. The guidebook lays out a series of options for framing carbon rights in law that might be appropriate depending on the outcomes of the analysis of REDD+ stakeholders, potential beneficiaries, and the tenure situation (Phase 5). Trade-offs associated with different alternatives for assigning carbon rights are discussed. Measures that might accompany legal reforms are also provided.