‘Command Without Control’: Are Market Mechanisms Capable of Delivering Ecological Integrity to REDD?


Simon West
Research associate
Law, Environment and Development Centre (LEDC)
School of Oriental and African Studies
University of London
15B Powell Rd, Clapton
London, E5 8DJ


Market mechanisms have been increasingly touted over the last 40 years as the most ecologically effective and economically efficient way to solve environmental problems. The problem of deforestation has been increasingly recognised in the climate change regime over the last 15 years as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Correspondingly many politicians, academics and commentators believe that linking forestry conservation projects to international carbon markets is potentially a cost-efficient way of reducing emissions and stabilising temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. This belief has been translated into a broad set of policy proposals generally named REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). This paper will assess whether a market-linked REDD programme is in fact capable of preventing deforestation efficiently and within the timescale needed. The history of forestry activities within the climate regime will be outlined, before proposals for a market-linked REDD are analysed in the context of contemporary academic discourse and in the context of ‘real-world’ experience. The ability of a market-linked REDD mechanism to ensure adequate measurement, reporting and verification (MRV), land tenure, public participation, and public-private interaction is questioned. Indeed, the paper concludes by suggesting that the lessons drawn from studying previous market-linked schemes for environmental protection indicate that a market-linked REDD scheme will not achieve the desired reductions in greenhouse gasses in the timescale required, and could in fact be an expensive distraction from other simpler and faster methods of carbon reduction.


Climate regime, deforestation,  emissions reductions, environmental protection, land tenure,  market mechanisms, MRV, public participation, public-private interaction, REDD.


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