The role of discourses in governing forests to combat climate change

Tobias Nielsen

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Reducing emissions from forest degradation and deforestation, conserving and enhancing forest carbon stocks, and sustainably managing forests (REDD+) has emerged as one of the most anticipated climate change mitigation tools. This paper aims to understand and identify the underlying discourses that have dominated the emergence of REDD+, by identifying the key story lines in the policy and academic debates on REDD+. As such, this paper takes a step away from the “fine-tuning” of policy recommendations and instead studies REDD+ from a more theoretical approach with the intent to provide a critical analysis of the ideational structures that shape the policies that have emerged around REDD+. The analysis shows that ecological modernization and its accompanying story lines constitute a dominant notion of REDD+ as being able to manage the complexities of forest in a synergetic way, combining cost-efficient and effective mitigation with sustainable development. The paper also identifies the critical counter discourse of civic environmentalism, which criticizes this notion of REDD+ and instead promotes issues such as equity, the importance of local knowledge, and the participatory process. It argues that reducing deforestation involves trade-offs between economic, ecological, and social dimensions, also arguing that REDD+ fits overwhelmingly with the interest of the global North.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-280
JournalInternational Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science


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