Reducing forest emissions in the Amazon Basin: A review of drivers of land-use change and how payments for environmental services (PES) schemes can affect them


S. Wertz-Kanounnikoff

Type of Document:
Research Report


Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

Date of Publication:

Place of Publication:
Bogor, Indonesia


Summary: Land-use change and deforestation in Latin America Generally, and in the Amazon Basin specifically, are driven primarily by economic profitability (agricultural expansion and logging) and governance weaknesses (notably, lenient law enforcement), and only to a much lesser extent by deterministic poverty cycles. Nevertheless, poor forest dwellers (indigenous communities, smallholders, rubber tappers) have the potential to be important stakeholders in stabilising Amazonian land use. Changing incentives for big deforestation actors will likely have indirect effects also on these poor people, to the extent that they might gain or lose from deforesting and degrading activities. Large-scale strategies to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation will thus require social impact assessments that account for leakage and perverse incentive scenarios.

Latin America has been a pioneer in testing and implementing PES schemes in developing countries, and these experiences are of high value to regional REDD policy design. However, ideological resistance against PES/REDD in Amazonia also exists due to fears that such schemes will lead to the loss of land rights or of sovereignty. In these situations, intermediaries whom both service buyers and sellers trust can play an important role in mediating and catalysing initiatives. In addition, a significant share of deforestation in the Amazon (and in other tropical forest frontiers) happens through private illegal– but often tolerated– occupation and clearing of government-owned forestlands. This type of deforestation cannot be stopped through landowner payments of the PES type since there are no legitimate landowners available to compensate for their conservation efforts.

This paper suggests the following messages: 1. Importance of performance-based incentive schemes with a focus on “conditionality” 2. Need for governance investments with a focus on effective law enforcement (Excerpt from Executive Summary)

Additional Bibliographic Information

Working Paper No. 40

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