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Following REDD+: elite agendas, political temporalities, and the politics of environmental policy failure in Guyana

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 18:57 authored by Andrew HookAndrew Hook
This article follows the journey of Guyana’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme, from its promising emergence in 2009 as an ambitious, Norway-funded scheme worth US$250m to its near-abandonment by all actors ten years later. It is based on primary fieldwork conducted in Guyana in 2016 and 2017 and a deep review of the theoretical and empirical literature on REDD+ policy processes and the Norway–Guyana agreement. The article shows how, contrary to the mainstream understanding of environmental policy as a disinterested search for a rational, scientific solution, decisions governing REDD+ policy in Guyana were rather shaped throughout by the political objectives and calculations of a small number of opportunistic elite actors. It further shows how even the modest incarnation of REDD+ in Guyana (which ended up resembling more of a results-based aid programme than a Payment for Ecosystem Services scheme) was continually affected by political factors beyond the control of policy managers. These included fluctuations in the world gold price that led to an increase in mining activity and deforestation, the departure of a key international investor which caused the collapse of the flagship REDD+-funded Amaila Falls hydropower project, and legislative gridlock in Guyana generated by a hung Parliament. While not suggesting that REDD+ (or similar Payment for Ecosystem Services schemes) can never work, the article nonetheless illustrates the ways in which political objectives and unforeseen events can overwhelm substantive policy efforts towards fighting climate change. The findings also illustrate the dangers of prioritizing short-term ‘success stories’ over longer-term and more consultative environmental policy processes.


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  • Published

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Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space




SAGE Publications





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  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications

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