Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) is expected to do many things; reduce emissions from the forest sector and land use change, and contribute to social development objectives and biodiversity conservation. Elements of the social development and biodiversity conservation goals are established as safeguards at the international level, and are also being pursued at the national level as countries develop their REDD+ strategies and implement REDD+ pilot projects. It is widely recognized that achieving multiple benefits from REDD+ is important to ensure the political sustainability and environmental integrity of the mechanism, and for the case of REDD+ projects, to reduce the risk associated with investments in these projects.
But why should REDD+, developed as a climate change mitigation instrument, be linked with adaptation? Are we asking REDD+ to achieve all things for all people? Might this hinder the achievement of mitigation goals?
In research and policy communities, climate change mitigation and adaptation are largely separate issues, however at the local level there is little distinction. ‘Mitigation’ projects will influence the capacity of local people to adapt to climate shocks and stresses, while ‘adaptation’ projects often have unintentional impacts on the mitigation potential of forests. At the local level, the separation between mitigation and adaptation is fairly meaningless.
This then begs the question, why is adaptation important in the context of REDD+? The main reason is that shocks and stresses associated with climate change are already being felt in many communities in developing countries, and in many cases adapting to these is their primary concern. Local communities’ ability to do this (adaptive capacity) depends on a number of types of assets, and processes, including institutions, governance, innovation and knowledge. There is therefore increasing attention being given to building adaptive capacity at the local level to assist communities in the face of climate change, and enable them to meet their development needs and objectives.
If local level adaptive capacity is integral to achieving long-term social development objectives, and REDD+ should be designed in a way that contributes to social development objectives, then surely local level adaptive capacity is also important for REDD+. Recent REDD-net research highlights this importance, and suggests how REDD+ can best be designed to contribute to local level adaptive capacity. It highlights key features of the policies and measures, benefit sharing mechanisms and governance systems used to implement REDD+ that can contribute to both REDD+ objectives and the adaptive capacity of local communities. REDD-net will convene further discussions on this topic, including drawing on practical experience from field implementation of REDD+, alongside COP17 in Durban.
So, it would seem that we’re not asking yet another thing from REDD+. Contributing to adaptive capacity at the local level is an important way of ensuring that REDD+ meets the development needs of local communities now and in the future, as the climate changes and development pressures change. It would appear then that fostering synergies and minimising tradeoffs between REDD+ and adaptation is imperative for the long-term sustainability of REDD+, at both the project and national policy levels.