Symbolic legislation, social safeguards and global self-deception in REDD+ governance

Authors: Emmanuel Nuesiri*, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
Topics: Global Change, Cultural and Political Ecology, Africa
Keywords: symbolic legislation, social safeguards, societal self-deception, REDD+
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 6:20 PM
Room: Endymion, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Symbolic legislation talks tough then fails to act, articulate policies that do not become law or are weakly enforced, and enact legislation that legitimize practices already adopted by industry. It is argued that symbolic legislation is the default mode of policy makers responding to environmental problems. They wish to be seen to be responsive but fear to hurt powerful actors especially the corporate sector. Symbolic legislation works where citizens are not well informed, so accept policies that claim to protect their interests, while doing nothing substantive to respond to their concerns. The societal self-deception theory also posit that symbolic legislation works when society demands environmental legislation but are unwilling to pay for substantive action. The reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, plus conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+) is a climate change mitigation initiative included as Article 5 in the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. It will have negative socio-economic impact on local communities restricted from accessing forests set aside for REDD+. In response the United Nations, the World Bank, and developing country governments have developed social safeguards to protect local communities affected by REDD+. Based on studies carried out in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Philippines, and Indonesia, this paper examines whether REDD+ safeguards are symbolic rather than substantive legislation. Research methods include literature review, documentary research, and interviews. Findings are used to interrogate the question of whether there is global self-deception with respect to REDD+ governance.

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