Exploring the agency of Africa in designing REDD+ and the associated implications for national level implementation

Produced as part of the Advancing climate finance and investment CCCEP research programme theme

Rules on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) are globally designed by multiple actors but the outcomes are implemented in developing countries. The coherence of resulting rules with developing country policy setting depends on the agency of these countries in the global process. This paper explores Africa’s (African States) agency in the global REDD+ design process then analyses how resulting rules are implemented in an African setting. Interviews and document analysis reveal that multiple State and non-Sate actors are involved in the global process. However, the agency of Africa in the process is weak partly due to numerical and technical underrepresentation. The weak agency is exacerbated by a focus on REDD+ funds as countries cast themselves as victims of climate change eligible for funds rather than sources of technological solutions. At the national level, the weak agency creates implementation capacity gaps which steers Kenya and other African countries to rely on expertise from resource endowed multilateral intermediaries whose agency is strong and are able to mobilise funds to develop and test REDD+ technologies in these countries. In Kenya, focus on REDD+ funds reinforces path dependency as REDD+ activities are mainstreamed within the country’s forestry sector with little integration of key sectors e.g. lands and agriculture because these sectors could ‘complicate’ delivery of carbon funds yet these sectors are the key drivers of Kenya’s forests losses. Consequently, the global REDD+ rules negatively interplay certain policy measures in the excluded sectors, fails to harness expertise across sectors and excludes local communities. These findings do not only re-emphasise an established fact about weak agency of Africa in international climate regimes but goes further to demonstrate how such weak agency could impede effectiveness of emerging regimes such as REDD+ that are specifically targeted at developing countries such as Kenya.