COD, REDD and the free market

Swahili Street asks about REDD in relation to Cash on Delivery.

With REDD (carbon-based payments for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation for the uninitiated) I think it all depends on how the international architecture pans out. Lots of people are arguing for fund based approaches, and there are some good reasons why that could be a better solution as being both potentially simpler to manage and to avoid penalising well-behaved countries like Costa Rica who have already acted to control deforestation. (Is there anything to be read into the appointment of a Costa Rican as the new UNFCCC coordinator?) But I am with lots of other people in voicing substantial skepticism that other developing countries could actually get deforestation under control without a more robust transactional system which pays for actual achievements. This would act in a more commercial way than I expect most COD will do, but maybe that’s the exactly the direction we should be going on this? Perhaps we could end up with exchanges trading things like completed primary school years; the money would flow to those countries which could deliver such public goods at the lowest possible price, and governments of other developing countries would have to scrabble around to see how they could deliver the same benefit at the same price. The ultimate free marketeer’s solution to development in poor countries!


3 responses to this post.

  1. Well why not? Forest management is imperfect. Education systems too. Let’s trade! It’s the reductio ad absurdum of REDD. You neatly point out that REDD is a mechanism to do existing things better. Problem with it is that it thereby consigns to the dump all the other rationales – biodiversity, protection of water sources, etc. – by attaching a dollar value to the woods and making that alone, the rationale. Why would anybody follow Costa Rica’s example now?

    Which people quickly realised, and started tagging on REDD+ and even ++. Thereby confusing things further so we now have no idea what REDD may look like, how it might work or even where.


    • I think this is not so much the reductio ad absurdum of REDD as of the Additionality principle which asks us to pay for something based on a counter-factual argument; what would happen if we didn’t do X. How many apparently failed conservation projects have claimed success on that basis? I think Costa Rica should get paid for their forest the same as anyone else. Just as in the 20th century Saudi Arabia suddenly discovered it was incredibly rich from oil deposits, so in the 21st century should Brazil et al suddenly find themselves rich from forests. Unfortunately additionality appears here to stay for the time being, so REDD practitioners have to tie themselves in knots trying to construct plausible but imaginary scenarios for business as usual which show them saving as much carbon as possible.


  2. a thoughtful and useful response, for which thanks!


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