REDD+ impacts: evidence from Nepal.
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD and REDD+) is an international mechanism for mitigating climate change impacts. The ambitiously designed architecture that makes REDD+ win-win for high emitting developed countries and forest rich developing countries has led to high hopes and expectations as well as a fear of failure. However, we do not as yet know if and whether REDD+ would succeed. This paper discusses the findings from one of the first rigorous quasi-experimental studies using a 'before-after-control-intervention' design that encompass all major aspects of REDD+: forest carbon and bio-physical, ecological, livelihood and welfare. The analysis of the outcome indicators from two years of REDD+ incentive payments indicate that there are positive signs of improved forest condition for carbon additionality and livelihood improvements, while no harm has been done to local livelihoods, which is generally feared in REDD+ literature. Although there is no change in forest carbon components in REDD+ communities compared to controls, important changes are observed in ecological indicators such as reduction in forest fires, timber extraction and encroachments that could contribute to carbon enhancement in the future. We find a decline in the share of firewood in household cooking that is consistent with the observed increase in biogas, a cleaner and convenient renewable energy source. These findings support the broader sense that REDD+ initiatives must and can work in tandem with other global initiatives (e.g., ENERGY + and the Sustainable Development Goals), in this case, indicating that a shift to biogas fuel could improve livelihoods and ensure REDD+ success in Nepal.