in Brazil

Is coordination the biggest issue facing REDD in Brazil? It depends who you ask. And what you ask them

“The fundamental question for all REDD+ countries is how to move away from business as usual and ensure sustainability. That is the main challenge.”

That somewhat obvious comment comes from Maria Fernanda Gebara, a CIFOR consultant based at the London School of Economics. She was part of a team that produced a recent CIFOR Brief on the “REDD+ Governance Landscape” in Brazil.

The Brief, written by Leandra Fatorelli, Maria Fernanda Gebara, Peter May, Shaozeng Zhang and Monica Di Gregorio, can be downloaded here. The Brief is based in part on a questionnaire and interviews with 56 institutional representatives from government, NGOs, civil society organisation, research institutions, private-sector organisation, and donors.

The Brief concludes that the top three key issues to be addressed for REDD in Brazil are: coordination between civil society, government and the private sector; contradictions between forestry policies and other policies; and a lack of law enforcement. While the Brief is interesting and worth a read, it excludes the views of civil society that oppose REDD in Brazil.

REDD needs “cross-sectoral policies”

Implementing REDD in Brazil (as in any other country) does not take place on a tabula rasa. There are already policies and measures aimed at reducing deforestation, including the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in Amazon and Cerrado, the revised Forest Code of 2012, and the National Plan on Climate Change, among others.

These policies and other measures (the implementation of the 1965 Forest Code, and moratoria on deforestation in the soy and cattle sectors) saw deforestation in Brazil decrease massively.

CIFOR’s Brief notes that reducing deforestation means addressing drivers of deforestation from a range of sectors, not just the forestry sector’s logging operations and pulpwood plantations. Industrial plantations (soya, sugar, palm oil), cattle ranching, and large-scale infrastructure (roads, hydropower dams, mines) are among the other sectors that also need to be addressed. That doing so requires coordination is the key finding of CIFOR’s Brief.

The Brief points out that REDD “requires well-integrated cross-sectoral policies”. But in Brazil the researchers found that, “policies still tend to be disconnected from one another, even though they are nested under potentially connected policy arenas.”

But one question that CIFOR’s researchers apparently didn’t put their minds to is whether Brazil would be better off without REDD. (After all, deforestation started decreasing in Brazil in 2004, before REDD. And in the past two years, deforestation rates have been going up again – largely because the revision of the Forest Code in 2012 weakened the legislation.)

A lack of coordination on REDD

In 2013, Brazil produced a draft National Strategy for REDD+. CIFOR’s Brief notes that the draft

“describes clear coordination and governance objectives, such as integration, convergence and coordination among instruments (public policies) and governance structures (i.e. national, state and local level) to reduce deforestation.”

The REDD+ National Entity is supposed to work with two key coordinating bodies to develop Brazil’s national REDD strategy: the Permanent Inter-ministerial Working Group for Reducing Legal Amazon Deforestation Rates (GPTI); and the Inter-ministerial Committee on Climate Change (CIM).

We might expect that these bodies would have been busy since the draft National Strategy was produced. They haven’t. CIM did not meet at all in 2014. The CIM executive group only met twice in 2014. GPTI has not met since 2008.

CIFOR’s authors write that,

Creating new bodies to address REDD+ or other climate change issues will help achieve climate change objectives only if there is sustained coordination and collaboration to that end. To achieve significant outcomes, such efforts require resources including as money, time, and human and political capital.

The draft REDD+ Strategy provides no details about how the coordination among government actors, and between government, civil society and the private sector might take place.

“Significant issues” with REDD

Participants in CIFOR’s study agreed that the following were “significant issues” (the figures are the percentage of people who chose each statement as an “important challenge”):

  • the need for more effective coordination between civil society, government and the private sector (86%)
  • contradictions between forestry policies and other policies (80%)
  • lack of law enforcement (77%)
  • lack of information on land tenure (75%)
  • the need to tackle deforestation without compromising development goals (75%)
  • stakeholders’ lack of knowledge on REDD+ (75%)
  • the need to reach consensus on forest management and land use plans (73%)

Only one of these concerns is specific to REDD. All the others would be problems anyway, whether or not Brazil was developing REDD. Other issues that participants saw as issues relating to REDD, included the lack of formal institutions for REDD, the need for a nested approach for REDD, and the need to define the beneficiaries of REDD+ compensation. Wouldn’t one way of resolving these problems be to do away with REDD and focus instead on policies to stop deforestation?

REDD networking patterns

CIFOR’s research team also carried out an analysis of networking patterns, looking at which organisations shared information with each other, and which collaborated with each other on REDD.

Findings included the fact that Brazil’s Ministry of Environment, which overseas national policy, is well connected in both the information and collaboration networks. But the Ministry of Foreign Relations, which leads Brazil’s participation at the UN negotiations, is less well connected in the information network and is disconnected from the collaboration network.

The study found that the private sector was not part of the REDD debate in Brazil:

Private-sector actors, one of the main forces driving deforestation and forest degradation, are largely absent from the REDD+ policy domain, and the few who do participate are relatively isolated from other REDD+ policy actors.

But NGOs play a key role in information and collaboration networks:

A number of organizations stand out as central actors and/or mediators in the information and collaboration networks. In both networks, half of these are NGOs. Most NGOs are also directly or indirectly connected to each other. This finding underlines the importance of domestic NGOs in facilitating information flows and collaboration.

Critical civil society excluded?

The role of those in Brazil’s vibrant civil society movements that are critical of REDD, or outright opposed to REDD, is not reported in CIFOR’s study.

Those participating in CIFOR’s study could choose from a list of significant issues with REDD. Without seeing the full list, we don’t know whether one of the issues was the need to reduce deforestation without trading forest carbon credits (which would allow the burning of fossil fuels to continue somewhere else, would not address climate change, and therefore increase the risk of the Amazon going up in smoke).

We also don’t know how the organisations were selected to take part in the study. I’ve asked the authors of the CIFOR Brief the following four questions (and one correction) and will post their response in full when I receive it:

  1. The CIFOR Brief on “REDD+ Governance Landscape” in Brazil appears to exclude the views of many representatives from Brazilian civil society who are critical of, or opposed to REDD. How were the organisations that took part in the study selected?
  2. The Brief includes a list of issues that participants in the study agreed were significant. Could you please provide a full list of the issues with which participants in the study were presented. When was this part of the study carried out?
  3. Why did the research team not consider whether Brazil’s forests and people might be better off without REDD, given that deforestation rates in Brazil fell from 2004, i.e. before REDD started?
  4. Friends of the Earth, Brazilian Amazon is listed as one of the international organisations in the REDD information and collaboration networks in the study (the fact that it isn’t in either network raises the question why it is listed at all). Friends of the Earth, Brazilian Amazon is a Brazilian NGO. Unfortunately, it seems that the research team was taken in by the fact that Roberto Smeraldi’s organisation “Amigos da Terra Amazonia Brasileira” uses the words “Friends of the Earth” in its name. The reality is that Smeraldi’s organisation is neither a member nor an ally of Friends of the Earth International neither a member nor an ally of Friends of the Earth International. At least one member of the research team is fully aware of this. Peter May was Associate Director of Amigos da Terra Amazonia Brasileira from 2005-2012.
  5. Why were the following organisations (and others who are critical of REDD) not included in the study: Movement of Landless Peasants (MST), Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional (FASE), Via Campesina, Carta de Belem, Amazonlink, World Rainforest Movement, Terra de Direitos, or Conselho Indigenista Missionário (CIMI)? Oh, and the real Friends of the Earth, Brazil.

Of course, we don’t know whether these organisations would want to have taken part in this sort of study. But it would be interesting to know whether they were asked. As it is, CIFOR’s Brief is silently excluding an essential part of the debate about REDD in Brazil.

Full Disclosure: This post is part of a series of posts and interviews about REDD in Brazil, with funding from Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung e.V. Click here for all of REDD-Monitor’s funding sources.

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  1. I am thrilled to have been cited in the above article describing over 5 years of continuous research on REDD+ with CIFOR and members of Brazil’s civil society, government and academic communities. It has been a very rewarding experience. I have been cited however as being aware of frictions between Amigos da Terra Amazonia Brasileira that would imply some kind of breach of intellectual property when translating the name of this organization as “Friends of the Earth Brazilian Amazonia” in our study. This does not strike me as relevant to the issues at hand. However we have agreed that it could strike a confusing chord and will revise the material on the CIFOR website accordingly. Thanks for the alert.