Forest Carbon (Redd +), Repairing International Trust, and Reciprocal Contractual Sovereignty

85 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2013 Last revised: 6 Aug 2013

See all articles by David Takacs

David Takacs

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: July 24, 2013

Abstract

Climate change, deforestation, and poverty present dire and intertwined threats to human and nonhuman communities. In this paper, I examine how the world’s nations, businesses, and citizens are overcoming mistrust to cooperatively address these threats through a program of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) with an associated, rigorous – and intrusive – regime of Measuring, Monitoring, Reporting, and Verifying (MMRV). I ask: How do struggles to quantify, control, and sustain the world’s forests highlight new frontiers for international law? Through these struggles, how is “sovereignty” – a cornerstone of international law – being reconstructed to adapt to 21st century perils that demand unprecedented cooperation among nations?

The developing world’s forests, long cherished by diverse actors, are now valued anew as a repository for greenhouse gas emissions, predominately emitted by developed nations. Wealthier nations have pledged billions of dollars for REDD programs to preserve the developing world’s forests, but have attached intrusive measures for measuring, monitoring, reporting, and verifying not only the amount of forest carbon sequestered, but also governance reforms nations would be obliged to institute. Developing nations have responded with their own tit-for-tat demands for MMRV for emission reductions achieved and funds pledged and actually transferred. And various stakeholders are demanding MMRV for social and biodiversity benefits promised to flow from REDD.

Nations’ sovereign rights to manage their forests are triply threatened – from the ecological ravages portended by climate change, and by REDD schemes that may occur without government knowledge or blessing, and by intrusive MMRV regimes suggested as strings attached to proffered aid. However, developing nations can use the MMRV for REDD regime to gain new clout as their forests become fungible carbon storage devices, whose greenhouse gas absorptive capacity is another tradeable on international markets. Through the mutual MMRV demands upon which billions of dollars of REDD depend, negotiators are redrawing the boundaries of “sovereignty” in an age when pressing environmental problems don’t respect national borders and demand unprecedented cooperation. The emergence of a legal regime of MMRV for REDD shows how we can potentially overcome a crisis of mistrust to promote cooperation in mitigating climate change, deforestation, and poverty. Debates over MMRV reveal divides in power wielded by North/South, while simultaneously diminishing that power differential, and dispersing power among actors with fundamental stakes in the world’s forests. MMRV for REDD shows how disparate actors are quantifying disparate variables that can be measured, monitored, reported, and verified, and in the process negotiating a new form of reciprocal, contractual sovereignty. MMRV for REDD proposes a process of negotiated cooperation that not only can help ward off multiple ecological disasters, but may present a model for how North and South may work together to address other environmental problems that threaten us.

Trees, long prized by diverse stakeholders for diverse reasons, now have taken on added value as storehouses for greenhouse gases, performing a service essential for preventing the worst ravages of climate change. Developed nations have pledged billions of dollars to help developing nations preserve their magnificent living carbon repositories – while also protecting biodiversity and staunching poverty – in a global program known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD. But all parties must first overcome a crisis of mistrust to make REDD and other forms of climate cooperation work. As a result, disparate stakeholders are negotiating a complicated, unprecedented regime of Measuring, Monitoring, Reporting, and Verifying (MMRV) to ensure that all actors keep their pledges. Developed nations are demanding intrusive MMRV scrutiny for pledged forest preservation and governance reforms in the developing world; developing nations are responding by asking for MMRV scrutiny of developed nations’ pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transfer climate change aid. And cross cutting activists are demanding MMRV to ensure that REDD actually aids poor people and biodiversity.

Nations’ sovereign rights to manage their forests are triply threatened – from the ecological ravages portended by climate change, by REDD deals that may occur without government knowledge or blessing, and by intrusive MMRV regimes attached as requirements before aid is tendered. But having attained new value for their greenhouse gas absorptive capacity, forests are an increasingly cherished commodity in the global industrial and ecological order, and are a strong negotiating chip for the Southern nations that possess them. Debates over MMRV reveal divides in power wielded by North/South, while simultaneously diminishing that power differential, and dispersing power among actors with fundamental stakes in the world’s forests. MMRV for REDD shows how disparate actors are quantifying disparate variables that can be measured, monitored, reported, and verified, and in the process negotiating a new form of reciprocal, contractual sovereignty. The system of MMRV for REDD that is emerging enhances sovereignty if it reduces GHG pollution and results in transfers of aid to help developing nations protect their sovereign resources.

In this paper, I explain how the emerging MMRV regime presents a model not only for facilitating REDD and other climate cooperation, but for reconstructing how we view the legal institution of “sovereignty” in an increasingly interconnected, perilous 21st century world. This process of negotiated cooperation only can help ward off multiple ecological disasters, but may present a model for how North and South may work together to address other threatening environmental problems.

Keywords: climate change, environmental law, international human rights law, international environmental law, equity, REDD, forests, forest carbon, forest law, international law, carbon offsets, MRV

JEL Classification: K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Takacs, David, Forest Carbon (Redd +), Repairing International Trust, and Reciprocal Contractual Sovereignty (July 24, 2013). 37 Vermont Law Review 653 (Spring 2013); UC Hastings Research Paper No. 54. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2298191

David Takacs (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
76
rank
297,358
Abstract Views
488
PlumX Metrics