Managing complex issues: how complex does policy have to be
Big environmental problems are almost by definition complex because dealing with them involves multiple interacting dimensions of ecology and society. The REDD+ agreement is a good example of this. REDD+ stands for Reduced Emissions from avoided Deforestation, forest Degradation and other forest related activities in developing countries (see box). It’s a wide reaching policy which aims to provide a robust framework to reduce carbon emissions from many land-use activities, in particular through reducing ongoing deforestation and degradation in developing countries. Each country, of course, has very different ecologies, economies and cultural settings. For example, REDD+ in China is likely to focus on ongoing, wide-scale reforestation (including the establishment of plantations) led by a centralized government and economy. In Indonesia, by contrast, REDD+ is expected to focus on reducing deforestation and ongoing forest degradation in an environment of decentralized governance.
In these disparate settings, REDD+ must provide scope for balancing the management of landscape carbon with other management goals (such as agriculture, forestry, economic development, and biodiversity conservation). It is certainly a challenge for both scientists and policy negotiators to guide the implementation
of REDD+ so that it maximizes the benefits of reduced emissions through forest protection and enhancement (whilst maintaining effectiveness, efficiency, and equity), and minimizing the potential negative impacts (which include the risk of policy failure)…