Cambodia’s forests and climate change: Mitigating drivers of deforestation

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is exploring a mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) to address global warming. This represents a major expansion of earlier forest-oriented initiatives under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that focused on afforestation and reforestation activities. While the scope of REDD projects is still being defined, potential categories include conservation, stock enhancement, and sustainable management, creating a range of new opportunities for forest-related climate projects. The core concept behind REDD is that deforestation trends can be slowed, halted, or even reversed conserving billions of tons of carbon that would otherwise be emitted. To succeed, REDD projects will need to control powerful drivers of deforestation and forest degradation operating at multiple levels and carried-out by a variety of actors, from rural people to political and economic elites. This case study of a REDD pilot project in northwest Cambodia explores how drivers might be contained under a project scenario and how the future international articulation of project design parameters could enable or constrain a global REDD strategy. The paper concludes that to be successful REDD projects will require a hybrid approach in which local drivers are controlled by communities and national drivers are mitigated through policy actions necessitating strong partnerships between diverse institutions.

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