The United Nations Programme to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) is a plan to mitigate climate change by making payments to developing countries that conserve forests. However, it is not yet clear whether it makes sense to bring in the approximately 25% of developing country forests that are managed by communities. We attempt to shed light on this question by examining whether forest collective action – cooperation to improve forests – is already sequestering carbon. We find that, without specific policies to encourage carbon sequestration, the quality of local level collective action offers at best limited carbon benefits. Incentive programmes like REDD+ may therefore be needed to encourage those who control community forests to sequester carbon.
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