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UW Geographers address potential Social Impacts of REDD/Climate Change Policy

Tropical deforestation is a source of roughly 15% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is a prominent international policy mechanism through which developed, high-emitting countries pay developing nations to sustain their forests in order to store carbon. REDD is controversial, particularly with regard to whom should be paid and whether REDD could cause local communities to lose access to forests.

In collaboration with the Land Tenure Center (Nelson Institute) and with support from the USAID TransLinks program, Geography faculty and graduate students are addressing these issues and informing policy makers through various activities. For example:

  • Hosting an international workshop in Oct. 2011 on Land Tenure and Forest Governance that brought experts on REDD from around the globe. Leading this workshop were Lisa NaughtonIan BairdCathy DayHolly Gibbs and Matt Turner (all Geography) plus Jennifer Alix-Garcia (AAE, UW Madison) and Kelly Wendland (Univ of Idaho). Also attending and assisting were Geography grad students Erin Kitchell, Peter Swift and Will Shattuc. Presentations from this workshop were circulated in REDD-related events and at the Conference of Parties in Durban, South Africa in Dec 2011. Available online here
  •  Building on the workshop, Prof Lisa Naughton and PhD student Cathy Day co-edited a publication (Jan 2012) entitled Lessons about Land Tenure, Forest Governance and REDD . This volume includes case studies of pilot programs from across the tropics revealing the promise and risks of REDD in terms of local land security.  Publication available here 
  •  Preparing a special issue of the academic journal World Development that will feature selected papers from the workshop.

From beginning to end, the project has involved the efforts of diverse talents from Geography and The Nelson Institute. GIS certificate student Sam Matthews (BS ’11, GISCert ’12), working with Tanya Buckingham, Assistant Director of the UW Cartography Lab, was key in creating a series of maps and in designing the final publication. Drew Sellers (Nelson Institute) provided invaluable administrative oversight throughout the project .

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