The role of discourses in governing forests to combat climate change

Original Paper

Abstract

Reducing emissions from forest degradation and deforestation, conserving and enhancing forest carbon stocks, and sustainably managing forests (REDD+) has emerged as one of the most anticipated climate change mitigation tools. This paper aims to understand and identify the underlying discourses that have dominated the emergence of REDD+, by identifying the key story lines in the policy and academic debates on REDD+. As such, this paper takes a step away from the “fine-tuning” of policy recommendations and instead studies REDD+ from a more theoretical approach with the intent to provide a critical analysis of the ideational structures that shape the policies that have emerged around REDD+. The analysis shows that ecological modernization and its accompanying story lines constitute a dominant notion of REDD+ as being able to manage the complexities of forest in a synergetic way, combining cost-efficient and effective mitigation with sustainable development. The paper also identifies the critical counter discourse of civic environmentalism, which criticizes this notion of REDD+ and instead promotes issues such as equity, the importance of local knowledge, and the participatory process. It argues that reducing deforestation involves trade-offs between economic, ecological, and social dimensions, also arguing that REDD+ fits overwhelmingly with the interest of the global North.

Keywords

Climate change REDD+ International climate negotiations UNFCCC Payment for ecosystem services Discourse analysis Story line Ecological modernization Civic environmentalism 

Abbreviations

CIFOR

Center for International Forestry Research

COP

Conference of Parties (annual UN climate summits)

FAO

Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations

LCA

Long-term cooperative action

MRV

Monitoring, reporting, verification

NGO

Non-Governmental Organization

PES

Payment for ecosystem services

REDD+

Reducing emissions from forest degradation and deforestation, conserving and enhancing forest carbon stocks, and sustainably managing forests

SBSTA

Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice

TEEB

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

UNEP

United Nations Environmental Program

UNFCCC

United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change

UN-REDD

United Nations collaborative program on REDD+

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am very grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and valuable comments. I also owe a special thanks to Karin Bäckstrand, Johannes Stripple, and Fariborz Zelli for their helpful comments in the process of writing this paper. Previous versions of this paper were presented at the Earth System Governance Conference in Lund, Sweden, in 2012, and at the International Workshop on The Fragmentation of Global Environmental Governance in Bonn, Germany, in 2011.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceLund UniversityLundSweden

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