Learning from REDD+: a response to Fletcher et al.

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Although REDD+ is approaching its 10th anniversary, major impacts in terms of reduced forest loss are hard to document. Conservation practitioners and scholars are therefore increasingly asking why REDD+ has not delivered more tangible results. A recent Comment in Conservation Biology by Fletcher et al. (2016) addresses this question. We agree with Fletcher et al. that REDD+ has been hyped in some circles, which has created unrealistic expectations among policy makers and forest dwellers alike. Yet, we argue that Fletcher et al. put forward an incomplete interpretation of the evolving REDD+ concept and practice and wrongly place the responsibility for lack of progress on the principles of payment for environmental services (PES) and on reliance on market-based instruments (MBIs), in part based on their misunderstanding of the PES concept.
Potential answers to the question of why REDD+ has not delivered more tangible results fall into 4 categories: REDD+ has not yet been implemented at the scale needed to make a difference, REDD+ has evolved from the initial PES vision to a modified version of previous and largely ineffective conservation efforts, REDD+ has been blocked by powerful actors interested in maintaining the status quo, and REDD+ is conceptually flawed in its design as a PES and MBI scheme. Fletcher et al. fail to fully appreciate the first 3 problems, overemphasize the presumed flaws in REDD+ as a PES design, and prepare the ground for the rise and fall of the next conservation fad (Redford et al. 2013). We believe that REDD+, although troubled, is not dead.

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