Making REDD work for the Poor

Making REDD work for the Poor

This report presents a framework for understanding the connections between REDD and poverty. It contains a first analysis of the consequences REDD could have to the poor.

Written by Leo Peskett, David Huberman, Evan Bowen-Jones, Guy Edwards and Jessica Brown and commissioned by the Poverty Environment Partnership (PEP).

Understanding REDD-poverty linkages.

Whilst there are many reasons to ‘make REDD work for the poor’, notably the potential to enhance the sustainability of REDD systems by reducing conflict over resources, there are various interpretations of what this would mean in practice. Two major options include ‘no harm’ REDD, which aims to avoid increased threats to the poor, and ‘pro-poor’ REDD, which actively seeks to deliver benefits to the poor. Different stakeholders in REDD may be interested in different options, but there are concerns that adding poverty reduction objectives could reduce the overall effectiveness and efficiency of what is essentially an environmental mechanism.

In practice, it may be difficult to distinguish between these alternatives. This report takes a broad view of the linkages between REDD and poverty. It looks at poverty in terms of risks and benefits from three angles: income and growth (e.g. increased or decreased income from REDD projects); equity (e.g. the distribution of benefits within or between communities; or distribution over time); and voice and choice (e.g. the ability of different individuals or groups to participate in decision making related to REDD). These different aspects of poverty are considered at four scales: individual; community; national; and international.


Much uncertainty remains over the form of potential international REDD mechanisms, making it hard to judge their implications for the poor. Nevertheless, it is clear that decisions at the international level will have a large effect, particularly in terms of the volume of finance for REDD and its international distribution. In particular, the integration of REDD in carbon market systems under a future international climate framework would appear to have enormous potential income and growth benefits for developing countries. Under certain conditions, and in certain contexts, these benefits could be passed on to the poor.

The potential risks to the poor from REDD, such as elite capture of benefits, potential loss of access to land and lack of voice in decision-making, are also large. This is because of the likely scale of the systems envisaged, the complexities of monitoring and tracking carbon in the landscape, and the strong environmental, private sector and developed country interests to establish REDD mechanisms quickly. Concerted efforts are required to ensure equitable benefit distribution; robust systems of accountability; effective conflict resolution; and support for small-scale REDD.

In many cases, REDD may do ‘no harm’ to the poor for the simple reason that REDD-related activities and benefits might never reach them. The large political forces driving the development of REDD and the technical complexities of implementing REDD systems are likely to prevent poor countries and poor people from taking advantage of the opportunity, unless major efforts are devoted to making REDD work for the poor.


The full report can be downloaded byclicking here.

Tags: Poverty REDD

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