Study: REDD could run roughshod over local management of forests

(Reuters) - A U.N.-backed forest preservation scheme could become too valuable and complex, raising the risk local communities, the very people seen as key to the scheme's success, could be shut out, scientists say.

Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, or REDD, has already attracted billion of dollars of funding pledges from rich nations keen to see the scheme established as part of a broader global climate pact from 2013.

REDD would allow developing nations to earn valuable carbon offsets for projects that preserve or rehabilitate forests, which soak up planet-warming carbon dioxide as they grow.

Rich nations would buy the offsets to help them meet emissions reduction goals at home. That demand would underpin forest investments that could reach $30 billion a year by 2020, the United Nations has estimated.

That same demand could also undermine a major shift in the way forests have been managed in poorer nations, where cash-strapped national governments have given local communities and administrations more rights and powers to run their forests.

Such "decentralized" management has been shown to boost forest carbon storage and result in better incomes in a number of developing nations, say Edward Webb and Jacob Phelps of the National University of Singapore.

The scientists, along with co-author Arun Agrawal of the University of Michigan, in a study published in Friday's issue of the Journal Science, looked at how the rush for REDD could affect local management and governance of forests.

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